The dramatic real estate cycle of the past decade has had many impacts. Many of the stories widely circulated have told the story of loss; whether of families displaced entirely or of equity previously realized in homes. As with all things cyclical, the downturn created opportunity, in the form of value for some, and for the many in the form of conservation.
Last, week, an interesting article ran in the Sacramento Bee about land conservation around the Sierra Nevada and the Tahoe-Truckee region. Basically, the article describes how land conservation groups and have been able to purchase thousands of acres of private land since the real estate collapse of 2007. Land that would have previously been way too expensive and valuable for groups like our own Truckee Donner Land Trust to purchase were made available due to the sharp decline in land prices and incredibly generous and wealthy donors interested in conserving land for the benefit of the public. Instead of being used for private development as many were intended to, they are now being made public for everyone to enjoy. It is interesting that a cyclical downturn time could have had such unforeseen benefits. The article talks about the work being done at places like Royal Gorge and Waddle Ranch which is amazing, and would have otherwise not been possible.
The nature of resort towns is to offer an escape to the outdoors that people coming from cities and urban environments so desperately want. As more people come, there will obviously be expansion in both residential and commercial space. We happen to be fortunate enough to be directly connected by I-80 to one of the greatest cities and concentrations of wealth in the country. As the tech industry grows, we continue to add visitors to our already loyal Tahoe following. This has lead to literally billions of dollars in investment in our region and a boom in development as real estate has recovered.
On the surface, this would seem to be at odds with a sense of conservation, however, the series of transfer fees collected on every transfer of property at Northstar, Mountainside, Old Greenwood and Gray’s Crossing create an allocation of .5% directly channeled to the Truckee Donner Land Trust for the acquisition and stewardship of open space. Another .5% is dedicated to the Tahoe Mountain Resorts Environmental Fund and distributed annually to different organizations whose missions are directly tied to the preservation of our natural resources. Finally, another .25% – .5% goes into a general fund that is distributed in the form of scholarships to graduating seniors from our local high schools and other local non-profit organizations serving this community.
I think it is also vitally important that the balance of real estate growth and outdoor recreation capabilities always remains in favor of the latter, less we lose the appeal of that which drew us here in the first place. The draw of being in the mountains involved with outdoor recreation in whatever form continues to bring people to the Tahoe region, and we appreciate the efforts made by these groups working to ensure that a balance will only be enhanced.