Nevada City ups ante for conservancy bid |

Nevada City ups ante for conservancy bid

Nevada City is pushing hard for the economic benefits a new Sierra Nevada Conservancy headquarters could bring.

A grass-roots group of volunteers has sent a full-color postcard with a sweeping view of the city to state officials and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, extolling Nevada City’s virtues for the conservancy’s headquarters. In September, the city voted to support the effort to get the headquarters, noting the economic impact 50 eventual jobs and a budget in the millions could bring.

“A lot of companies would be benefited,” said Nevada City City Manager Mark Miller. “You would have the benefit of hotel visitors and people would come for the meetings from all over the Sierra.”

Tuesday, the Nevada County Supervisors voted to make Ted Owens Nevada County’s representative on a selection committee to choose a regional representative for the conservancy. The Truckee area supervisor was not at the meeting to discuss his selection and could not be reached for comment. Fellow Supervisor Sue Horne will be his alternate.

The conservancy was formed in September to capture state and federal tax dollars for Sierra conservation projects and protection. Representatives Tim Leslie and John Laird sponsored a bill to establish the conservancy that Gov. Schwarzenegger signed at a major ceremony on the banks of the Bear River outside of Colfax.

Leslie, a conservative Republican, and Laird, a liberal Democrat, both wanted to assure local representation for the conservancy board, which will come in the form of a county supervisor from each of six different subregions of the Sierra. Seven other conservancy board members will be selected by Schwarzenegger and various state agencies.

Nevada County’s Central Sierra subregion is lumped with Yuba, Placer and El Dorado counties. No apparent contact has been made with those counties to pick a supervisor for the conservancy board yet, but one must be selected by March 1.

The state budget plan Gov. Schawarzenegger issued Monday calls for $3.6 million in startup funds for the conservancy and 13 1/2 job positions. According to Shawn Garvey of the Sierra Fund of Nevada City, another $11.5 million is in Schwarzenegger’s budget for land acquisition.

The Sierra Fund was a major backer of the conservancy idea, which Garvey said has been brewing for almost 20 years. Former Supervisor Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin worked with Garvey as a Sierra Fund staff member to get the idea passed.

Leslie was actually skeptical of the plan at first, concerned that a conservancy might infringe on property rights and create another bureaucracy for cash-short California. But Leslie decided to get behind the idea when Schwarzenegger endorsed it early on in his campaign for governor.

Concerns and hopes continued to be expressed yesterday about the conservancy. At the board meeting, Nevada County Supervisor Robin Sutherland said it was important to protect water rights through the conservancy. Horne said she hoped to see some forest fuels management and property rights come from it.

Supervisor John Spencer said “I have a hard time believing in it,” and he wondered why a state that is looking at a large deficit would want to create another bureaucracy.

But Supervisor Nate Beason said he looked at the conservancy as “an opportunity to end strife,” between county environmentalists and property owners.

Garvey was even more boisterous.

“Fifty staff members would be one of Nevada City’s largest employers,” Garvey said. “It’s an absolutely historic investment by the government.”

Both Garvey and Miller said picking Owens for the selection committee was a step in the right direction.

“It’s exciting to have someone with his foresight and capacity for negotiation,” Garvey said.

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