Funds From Public Land Sale Eyed For Tahoe Purchase

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About $35 million generated by a recent auction of federal land near Las Vegas would be used to purchase prime Lake Tahoe real estate under a proposal recommended by federal officials.

Plans call for the U.S. Forest Service to use the money to purchase about 490 acres of the 548-acre Ponderosa Ranch amusement park in Incline Village.

At a meeting last week in Las Vegas, federal officials recommended the public buyout of the property with some of the more than $700 million generated by the June 2 auction.

The plan still must be approved by Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

The 490 acres eyed by the Forest Service includes the Western-theme park's nine-acre parking lot and upland areas with a creek.

Supporters envision leaving most of the property as open space and incorporating the ranch into a system of trails for hikers and bikers.

Backers also envision using part of the property for parking for nearby attractions and preserving several Ponderosa Ranch buildings, including the main ranch building and church.

The ranch has been put up for sale by its owners and should be sold by the end of the year, said Jacques Etchegoyhen of Terra Firma, a Minden-based land conservation group that's working on the deal.

The owners prefer to sell the ranch to the government, not developers.

The Incline Village General Improvement District, Washoe County and Nevada State Lands Division might end up splitting the remaining 58 acres, Etchegoyhen said.

The federal Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act authorizes the use of revenues from public land sales in the Las Vegas area to acquire environmentally sensitive land at Lake Tahoe.

Through an amendment approved last year, the act guarantees $300 million for the Tahoe Basin over the next eight years.

The Ponderosa Ranch, which opened in 1968, was based on the NBC show "Bonanza" that aired from 1950 to 1973. It concerned the exploits of the Cartwright family who lived on the fictional Ponderosa Ranch.

Bonanza was the No. 1 TV show in the United States for several years and spent most of its 14 years among the top-rated shows. The show now is in syndication.