Rarely does deverlopment lead to conservation. But such is the case with the Martis Fund, established in 2006 by DMB/Highlands Group (developers of Martis Camp), Sierra Watch and the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation with the goal of preserving several thousand acres of biologically and culturally rich meadow, forest and mountain lands.
Martic Valley is the largest mountain meadow and functional wetland in the eastern Sierra between the Mono Basin and Sierra Valley. To preserve and protect this environmental treasure, a one percent transfer fee is levied on all Martis Camp real estate transations, with those proceeds used to pursue the Martis Fund’s threefold objectives: conservation of open space, promotion of habitat and forest management and restoration, and support of workforce housing in the Martis Valley and greater Placer County region.
Through 2010, the Martis Fund had generated more tan $3 million from transfer fees alone, according to board member Nick Hackstock of Highlands Management Group. Martis Camp has also provided an additional $2 million in advance conveyance fees to the organization.
To further its mission, the Martis Fund works with local organizations including the Truckee Donner Land Trust, Truckee River Watershed Council and the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation. “ur initial approach has been to seek out local nonprofit groups that are doing good work on the ground and try to find a way to support them,” says Martis Fund president and Sierra Wtch board member David Welch. “In effect, we’re tapping into the specific knowledge of local people who are passionate about one aspect or another, like the environment or housing, and trying to leverage those efforts by providing financial support.”
One of the organization’s largest accomplishments to date has been the contribution of $3.53 million toward the Truckee Donner Land Trust’s $23 million purchase of Waddle Ranch in 2007. Now open to the public, the 1,462-acre preserve is a large piece of the open-space corridor in Martis Valley and will eventually include miles of new hiking and biking trails.
Workforce housing is also an objective of the Martis Fund.
“We’ve done studies and engaged the Urban Land Institute to convene a meeting and review some of the alternatives for our region,” says Welch. “It’s an effort that’s still in progress.”
Beneficiaries may include individuals such as school district and publis safety employees. Welch adds, “We might be able to provide them with a better chance for owning a ome and staying in the area.” By Jen Schmidt. TQ.
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