Community Celebrates on Conway Ranch (CA)

LEE VINING, CA– The Trust for Public Land (TPL), Mono County, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), were joined on Saturday by the Mono Lake Committee, People for the Preservation of the Mono Basin, and local residents to celebrate the successful end of the six-year effort to protect the historic and scenic 1,031-acre Conway Ranch from development. Earlier this year, TPL conveyed 811 acres to Mono County and 220 acres to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for permanent public ownership. The complex real estate transaction used grants for preservation of highway viewshed and wildlife habitat, as well as a land exchange with the BLM.

“We are all very proud of our successful effort to preserve the Conway Ranch from development. While management of the ranch’s water resources has been of intense state, local, and federal interest and debate, we applaud everyone’s commitment to seeing this very scenic part of the Mono Basin be saved for future generations to enjoy.” said Nelson Mathews, Western Rivers Program Director for TPL.

In 1998, TPL purchased the ranch to ensure that it was not transformed into a 440-unit commercial and residential development at the scenic northern gateway to the Mono Basin. The controversial development had obtained a specific plan approval and was awaiting build out when the owners decided to explore a conservation sale. The ranch controls senior water rights to Mill and Virginia creeks, which the Conway family used in the 1800s to irrigate crops and pastureland in order to feed the boomtown of Bodie. In the development proposal the water was to be used to irrigate a golf course and for the creation of fishing ponds.

“The long intense efforts of TPL, Mono County and the BLM, as well as the community of Lee Vining, the Mono Lake Committee, and interested citizens, has awaited this day of dedication. The public and agency participation has been unexcelled in making the vision of preserving the Conway Ranch as part of Mono County’s view shed for posterity. The recognition that this crown jewel could never be duplicated, in my opinion, holds one of the most magnificent landscapes in Mono County,” said Supervisor Joann Ronci of the Mono County Board of Supervisors.

The Trust for Public Land Press Release, September 30, 2000, Page TwoLocated on the ruggedly beautiful eastside of the Sierra Nevada, the historic Conway Ranch is just three miles north of Mono Lake. Equipped with a log cabins and corral fences, the ranch dates back to gold rush days when it provided cattle to the historic mining town of Bodie. In contrast to its parched surroundings, the ranch is made lush by natural springs as well as water diverted from Mill Creek, historically the third largest tributary to Mono Lake.

“Today’s celebration symbolizes the successful private/public partnership, including the Bureau of Land Management, the Trust for Public Land, Mono County, and others, that is working to protect the magnificent natural resources of Mono Basin,” said Al Wright, acting director of the California state office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

TPL’s acquisition and conveyance to Mono County and BLM will ensure public control of these water rights and will allow them to be used for the basin’s wetlands and streams, as well as for fish-rearing critical to Mono County’s tourist economy. Debate over how to utilize these water rights lead to the creation of the Conway Ranch Evaluation Workgroup, a diverse group of interests including local citizens, the Mono Lake Committee, People for the Preservation of the Mono Basin, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and Mono County. The goal of this group is to develop resource management proposals for the ranch.

This project represents an effort to preserve the internationally recognized ecosystem of Mono Lake while ensuring the viability of the local tourist economy. TPL’s financial commitment, coupled with federal, state, and local investments represent hope for solving some of the West’s tough conservation challenges.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has worked with public agencies, landowners, and citizen groups to protect more than 1.2 million acres in 45 states valued at over $1.8 billion. TPL has protected more than 10,000 acres in the past 3 years in the Klamath Basin, helping to protect and restore one of the most significant wildlife areas in California.