What’s Up in the Carson Valley: Protecting our Northern Neighbor’s Rural Heritage… And Future

We’re eager to share with you some exciting conservation news about our neighbors in western Nevada’s Douglas County. Just south of Carson City, Douglas County sits at the base of the Sierra Nevada and skirts the SE edge of Lake Tahoe. Douglas is a checkerboard of private and public lands, and is home to the cities of Minden, Gardnerville, Genoa, and to the great expanse of the Carson Valley: a fertile, mostly undeveloped flood plain that has been used for generations as farm and ranchland.

As the primary line of defense between the Sierra Nevada, Carson River, and developed communities such as Carson City, the rural Carson Valley not only provides vital habitat and agricultural value, but also prevents flooding that could be both environmentally and economically devastating. Photo © Steve Dunleavy.

As the primary line of defense between the Sierra Nevada, Carson River, and developed communities such as Carson City, the rural Carson Valley not only provides vital habitat and agricultural value, but also prevents flooding that could be both environmentally and economically devastating. Photo © Steve Dunleavy.

Legislation is in the works to protect the valley’s rural character and critical habitat. If passed, the Douglas County Conservation Act would provide funding for conservation easements – similar to those used by ESLT – that permanently preserve the agrarian heritage of the valley by preventing future developments. Such actions would also help maintain the Carson Valley’s viability as a flood plain. As Duane Petite of the Nature Conservancy puts it, “when we have a flood event, the water can rise up out of the banks of the river and spread across the floodplain. It can do that only if the floodplain is undeveloped.”

Bald Eagles are often seen in the Carson Valley seasonally, but recently a pair of eagles nested there and raised fledglings. Jacques Etchegoyhen, a good friend of ESLT, says that it’s the first pair in memory to do so, and that their story is, “part of the picture the county is trying to protect.”

Bald Eagles can be seen in the Carson Valley seasonally, but recently a pair nested there and raised fledglings. Jacques Etchegoyhen, a good friend of ESLT, says that it’s the first pair in memory to do so, and that their story is, “part of the picture the county is trying to protect.”

Douglas County Manager Steve Mokrohisky views this legislation as, “truly a conservation bill that seeks to put development where development should be and conserve land that’s really critical for future generations.” Rather than “islands,” this bill seeks to create “corridors of protection,” permanently safeguarding the rural heritage of the valley. In the months ahead, this bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives; stay tuned for updates, as we eagerly await news of this momentous move towards preservation.

Reno’s NPR affiliate, KUNR, recently aired a comprehensive story about the Carson Valley. Click here to read more about the valley and the bill in motion to protect its rural heritage.

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