Amador Ledger Dispatch: Sierra Nevada Conservancy bill approved by Legislature

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A landmark piece of bipartisan legislation that may have huge ramifications on the Sierra Nevada has made its way to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

The bill, which would create the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, has languished in the California Legislature for nearly four years. It was formally approved by both houses late last month.

According to information from the bill’s co-author, Assemblyman Tim Leslie, the conservancy will have no powers to regulate land use or private activities, nor is it allowed any power of imminent domain. Like the Tahoe Conservancy, it will serve as a forum for discussion, coordination and planning and will provide funds for grants and projects.

The nine stated goal areas of the conservancy include emphases such as reducing the risk of natural disaster, including fire, protecting, preserving, and restoring the region’s resources and providing increased opportunities for tourism and recreation. Conservancy funds must be spread equitably across the entire region and among its various stated goals.

Of the 13 members on the conservancy’s decision-making board, six will be locally elected county supervisors. The governor will appoint five members and the Legislature the other two. In addition, the conservancy will need to incorporate local government’s planning efforts into its own planning and to hold public forums across the region to gather local input.

Another contentious issue had been the ability of the conservancy to acquire land. Under the compromise measure, the conservancy’s power to acquire land in-fee has been removed altogether. Instead, it must make grants to local government or non-profit organizations, leaving lands under local use planning authority and on property tax rolls.

The Ledger Dispatch will run a more in-depth story on the Sierra Nevada Conservancy when the governor signs the bill.