We did it!
Our success on Donner Summit is a great example of how Sierra Watch turns development threats into conservation opportunities.
One of the truly iconic landscapes of the Sierra Nevada, Donner Summit is treasured by residents and second homeowners, hikers and skiers, naturalists and historians.
The region includes an incredible array of wildlife habitat. Its creeks and lakes, mountain meadows, and old growth forests are home to a great variety of Sierra plants and animals, including the Bald Eagle, the Pine Marten, and, amazingly, at least 115 different species of butterflies.
It’s the great divide between three important watersheds in the Sierra – the YubaRiver, AmericanRiver, and TruckeeRiver. These rivers are invaluable in delivering water to downstream customers throughout California and Nevada.
And Donner Summit is the most important cultural crossroads of the American West, with a rich history written in the rock art of the Martis Indians, the wheel ruts of the first wagon trains, and the snowsheds of the transcontinental railway.
It all adds up to an incredible sense of place: rustic and rugged, wild and wonderful.
But those incredible values and irreplaceable resources were put at risk. In 2007, Royal Gorge landowners proposed a massive development – 950 new housing units spreading from the edge of Sugar Bowl, surrounding Serene Lakes, and down into the North Fork American River Canyon – doubling the number already in the region. It was a nightmare scenario of traffic, roads, and rooftops.
Working with Summit property owners, regional conservation allies, and local civic groups, Sierra Watch turned back the misguided proposal and created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase – and protect – the entire Royal Gorge property.
The story of Donner Summit is truly one of the great accomplishments in the proud history of conservation in California.
Now, instead of battling sprawling subdivisions and new roads, we’re establishing habitat zones and new trails.