BRIDGEPORT, Calif.–Eastern Sierra Land Trust, a non-profit land conservation organization, finalized an agreement this month to permanently conserve 4,100 acres of ranch lands in the Bridgeport Valley. The conservation easement at the Hunewill Ranch will allow for the continued use of the land as a working cattle ranch and guest ranch, but also serve to protect wildlife habitat.
The Hunewill Ranch’s wet meadows, coined the “emerald islands,” are habitat for the B-State sage-grouse which raise their chicks there. Other animals that use the land for habitat and migration include black bears, American badgers and mule deer.
“By agreeing not to subdivide and develop the ranch, the Hunewills are preserving a critical migration route and securing habitat for a variety of wide-ranging wildlife,” ESLT said in a statement. “The ranch provides animals with room to roam, by connecting neighboring public and private conserved lands. Hunewill Ranch also provides a buffer for alpine habitat used by the federally-endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep.”
“The Hunewill family’s longstanding care for the land embodies how the strong agricultural tradition of our region works hand in hand with conservation goals,” added ESLT’s Executive Director and CEO, Kay Ogden.
The conservation project earned local, state and federal support, and funders included the National Resources Conservation Service, California Wildlife Conservation Board, California Deer Association and California Department of Conservation.
The Hunewill Ranch was established in 1861 by Esther and Napoleon Bonaparte Hunewill to supply timber to build the town of Bodie, before shifting to cattle ranching to supply beef to the workers and residents in the area. A guest ranch was added to the property in 1931 allowing paying visitors to learn to ride horses, herd cattle and enjoy the beauty of the valley. The cattle operation and guest ranch still operate today.
“We are deeply grateful to the fine people that are the Eastern Sierra Land Trust. It is very important to our family that this ranch be preserved and remain green and productive forever,” said Jeff Hunewill, landowner.