Agreement Would Conserve Royal Gorge Property on Donner Summit

The famed 3,000-acre Royal Gorge property on Donner Summit in the Sierra Nevada will be bought and protected from development under an agreement announced today by The Trust for Public Land, the Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT), and the Northern Sierra Partnership (NSP).

The agreement is a big change for a property that, as recently as 2007, had been slated for major resort development. That proposal stalled in the face of overwhelming opposition and an unfavorable economic climate—opening the way for conservationists to buy the land when the bank foreclosed on the loan.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to protect one of the prime spots in the Sierra,” said Sam Hodder, California Director of The Trust for Public Land. “It is great that we can preserve this property and its stunning scenery, rather than losing it to development.”

Perry Norris, Executive Director of the TDLT, said, “This is great news for all of us who love Donner Summit and the northern Sierra Nevada. The Royal Gorge property has been a top priority for us for decades, and now we finally have the opportunity to protect it for generations to come. The response from the community is inspiring.”

The three groups now face a December 20, 2012 deadline to raise $13.5 million to complete the project. The Northern Sierra Partnership is coordinating the collection of contributions to the Royal Gorge campaign.

Donner Summit is one of the most famous places in the Sierra Nevada, with incredible historic, recreational, and wildlife resources.

In 2005, a speculative partnership purchased Royal Gorge and, two years later, floated plans for a controversial 950-unit resort. Local residents and second homeowners worked with regional conservation advocates to oppose the project and promote a conservation outcome.

“This is the most important conservation acquisition in the Sierra Nevada in a generation,” said Tom Mooers, Executive Director of Sierra Watch, which spearheaded opposition to development of the property. “It protects one of the Sierra’s greatest places from development—forever.”

By the terms of the agreement, the Truckee Donner Land Trust will become the new owner of Royal Gorge and will oversee a long-term stewardship plan aimed at expanding all-season recreation opportunities. The Trust will work with community groups to improve the network of local trails on the property so visitors can more easily explore Royal Gorge and understand its role in our nation’s history. Neighboring Sugar Bowl will manage—and improve upon—the Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Area.

Local residents and second homeowners are eager to pitch in. Nancy Bechtle, Chairman of Sugar Bowl Corporation, is motivated by her own connection to the Summit. “As a life-long skier and a member of a family deeply in love with Donner Summit, I am terrifically excited by the opportunity to protect the iconic Royal Gorge property forever.”

Ken Hall is a long time cabin owner at Serene Lakes, a quiet community that would have been surrounded by the new development. “Those of us who live up here understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to protect everything we love about Donner Summit—not just for ourselves today, but for everyone forever.”

The Trust for Public Land protects land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since it was founded in 1972, the organization has completed 5,200 conservation projects in 47 states.

The Truckee Donner Land Trust preserves and protects scenic, historic and recreational lands with high natural resource values in the greater Truckee Donner region.

The Northern Sierra Partnership is a collaborative initiative to conserve, restore, and enhance the magnificent natural landscape of the northern Sierra Nevada, and build the foundation for sustainable rural prosperity.