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Taylor Lake up for trade

Alicia Knadler
Indian Valley Editor

Taylor Lake, above the Genesee Valley, is among more then 1,700 acres of private California lands proposed for trade to the U.S. Forest Service in exchange for 20.6 acres of federal land in the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.

Other private lands in the proposed trade deal are located within the boundaries of the Inyo, Eldorado and Stanislaus national forest areas.

The Mammoth Ski Area acreage is described as intensely developed, and is occupied under special use permit by ski resort and visitor facilities, including lodging, a restaurant, two ski lifts, several parking areas and motorized snow-toy rental services.

If traded, it would become an island of private land surrounded by national forest.

Three such islands would be eliminated, though, all in the Clavey River Watershed on the Stanislaus National Forest.

Taylor Lake (map), already halfway on Plumas National Forest land, would also become fully publicly owned.

Other private lands would offer recreational values if turned over to federal ownership, including more meadowland, stream and lake frontage.

One such parcel is located at the Pine Canyon Trailhead on the Inyo.

Trade of two private parcels will require special legislation, since they are located outside the national forest boundaries.

One such parcel, near Lone Pine, is located at the junction of highways 136 and 395.

On it is a visitor center managed jointly by the Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Caltrans, Mono County, Inyo County and the California Department of Fish and Game.

The other parcel is located in the center of Bishop and is used to store vehicles and forest management equipment.

It is also adjacent to the White Mountain Ranger District Office of the Inyo National Forest.

The trade would address acquisition of environmentally sensitive and administrative lands, improvement of visitor experiences and meeting economic and community development needs.

Decision framework

The public comment period for this project passed in October, and some Genesee residents were unaware of the proposal or opportunity to comment at the time.

Lee Anne Schramel, Plumas National Forest information officer and longtime resident of Indian Valley, said that when the Heart K Ranch property — which includes a portion of Taylor Lake — went up for sale, she had numerous informal conversations with people in the Genesee area who were concerned that a new private owner might be less generous about allowing people to enjoy and use the lake property.

“At one point I recall a conversation about an interested party wanting to build a private lodge up there and their concern about public access immediately adjacent on public land,” she said. “In fact, it’s those types of concerns that galvanized local interest to support the (Feather River Land Trust) and the Nature Conservancy to buy the property. It was an extraordinary effort to make it happen.”

Alternatives to the trade include outright purchase of the private lands, the conveyance of more than the 20.6 acres of federal land or a trade including lands occupied by the Mammoth Mountain Chalet Owners Association.

For more information about this land trade proposed action, call the Mammoth Lakes and Mono ranger districts’ lands program manager, Sheila Irons, at (760) 924-5534; or Feather River Land Trust’s Jason Moghaddas, 283-5758.

Taylor Lake background

Provided by the Feather River Land Trust, the following is a short background of Taylor Lake, one of the historic Heart K Ranch holdings.

The former owner of the ranch and a portion of Taylor Lake subdivided the property into several parcels.

One parcel of the ranch and a parcel along Hungry Creek were then sold to private owners.

The Nature Conservancy bought the remainder of Heart K Ranch, including the Taylor Lake portion.

The Feather River Land Trust bought the ranch from the conservancy, with a short-term $2.5 million loan from the Packard Foundation.

The conservancy retained ownership of Taylor Lake.

The Packard loan was paid off in May 2011, with funding from the Northern Sierra Partnership, The Wildlife Conservation Board and donations from Feather River Land Trust members, both locals and non-residents.

Before conservancy ownership, the dam and head-gate at Taylor Lake were deteriorated and overgrown.

The California Division of Dam Safety asked for it to be notched in 2005, which reduced stress on the dam and lowered the lake level by four feet.

The area around the lake is mostly used for hiking, off-highway vehicle riding and fishing.

Occasionally people bring small boats and canoes to the lake, and there is an area used for camping as well.

Most people respect the area, but there have been times when trash and feces have been left behind and active campfires have been abandoned.

About half of the area around the lake burned in the Moonlight Fire of 2007.

Indian Valley resident Nancy Neer and staff from the Feather River Land Trust felled several fire-killed trees in the campground area.

With the 80-acre Taylor Lake parcel being completely surrounded by thousands of acres of public land, it seemed like a good fit to get that consolidated into public ownership.

“Making the occasional trip up there to bury poop and clean up trash just really isn’t the way to manage it over the long term,” Moghaddas said. “Ownership by the USFS would ensure public access.”

Currently the property is taxed, so county and state coffers could lose that funding if it transferred to public ownership.

About $6,600 is paid annually in watermaster fees and $8,000 in property taxes.

It is unclear whether or not transferring the water rights would help reduce that burden on the land trust, which would still have extensive water rights on Indian Creek.

If the lake transferred, so would water rights of about 200 acre-feet.

Taylor Lake is at the uphill end of the existing Antelope-Taylor Lake Trailhead and the trail connects with others nearby.

Ownership of Taylor Lake would allow the Plumas National Forest to incorporate Taylor Lake into its maintenance and to promote the trailhead for public use.

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