LOYALTON — The largest ranch in the largest alpine valley in the Sierra Nevada will be permanently protected from development under a conservation easement purchased by three nonprofit organizations.
The $2.5 million easement on the 13,100-acre Sierra Valley Ranch-Bar One Cattle Co. is the first step to protecting the 130,000-acre Sierra Valley from development, the organizations said. The valley is 25 miles north of Truckee and a half-hour drive from Reno, Nev., and is ripe for development, the groups fear.
A 1,080-acre ranch sold for $3 million in 1999, and other ranches are on the market with multimillion dollar asking prices, the groups said.
The valley ringed by 7,000-foot peaks is the largest such valley in the Sierra, and one of the largest in the nation, the groups said.
Most of the valley is divided into small ranches owned by descendants of the original Swiss and Italian immigrants who settled it in the 1860s.
The easement will keep the land as a working cattle ranch while preserving “one of the most beautiful valleys in the world,” said Bar One co-owner Jack Sparrowk.
The ranch will take steps to protect the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the American River as part of the agreement.
The pact between the ranch and the California Rangeland Trust, the Sierra Business Council and The Nature Conservancy was funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Board.
The rangeland trust of the California Cattlemen’s Association has similar easements on 40,000 acres and expects to announce a doubling of that acreage over the next year through pending agreements.
The groups plan a celebratory barbecue at the ranch Friday, with a goal of persuading other Sierra Valley ranchers to sign similar easements.