Trust secures easement on Hunewill Ranch

Cowboys round up a herd on the Hunewill Ranch in northern Mono County.

Cowboys round up a herd on the Hunewill Ranch in northern Mono County.

Garnering the support of local, state and federal agencies over the course of years, the not-for-profit Eastern Sierra Land Trust secured a conservation easement in perpetuity for the historic Hunewill Ranch, which was established in 1861.

As a result, the working ranch located in the heart of beautiful, expansive Bridgeport Valley framed by the mountain peaks of Yosemite National Park is now preserved for wildlife and sustainable ranching.

The agreement marks the Trust’s largest conservation easement to date.

Eastern Sierra Land Trust worked with the Hunewill family to craft the conservation easement, and secure the federal, state, and local funding needed to complete the project. Funders include National Resources Conservation Service, California Wildlife Conservation Board, California Deer Association, and California Department of Conservation.

A conservation easement property continues to provide economic benefits for the region in the form of jobs, productivity, and property taxes, while protecting conservation values such as wildlife habitat.

When Esther and Napoleon Bonaparte Hunewill founded Hunewill Ranch in 1861, they began supplying timber, hauled by teams of oxen, to build the young mining town of Bodie. After the construction of the Bodie & Benton Railway, the ever-enterprising family built a thriving business supplying beef to workers and residents in the burgeoning area. In 1931, the Hunewills added a guest ranch on the property to welcome paying visitors to learn to ride horses, herd cattle, and appreciate the majestic beauty of the area.

The Hunewills are one of the region’s longest-established ranching families. Over the course of seven generations, the family has owned and operated the ranch and proven themselves to be exceptional stewards of the land.

Their ranch protects habitat for bi-state sage-grouse, which raise their chicks in the ranch’s wet meadows — the “emerald islands” so critical to wildlife in the arid West. 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 such as sage-grouse, black bear, American badger, and mule deer. 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.


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