Tens of thousands of travelers have passed through Huntoon Valley without ever knowing its name. Highway 395 passes through the narrow Sierra valley located just north of Bridgeport Valley.
A conservation easement will preserve a 1,424-acre working ranch and five miles of creeks and streams in Huntoon Valley owned by rancher George “Corky” Ullman, the Eastern Sierra Land Trust announced on Monday.
“I was fortunate to preserve the ranch,” Ullman said. “At first, I tried to enroll the ranch in the Williamson Act for open space and agriculture, but that program has lost its funding. I didn’t want to develop the ranch. This agricultural conservation easement allowed me to preserve the ranch forever.”
The trust worked with Ullman to create the conservation easement, and secured the federal, state, and local funding needed to complete the project.
“Mr. Ullman’s generosity meant that Eastern Sierra Land Trust was able to acquire the conservation easement at a reduced purchase price,” said Trust Executive Director Kay Ogden. “Because of Corky’s vision, this scenic valley with a rich history will remain as it is today – a working landscape that is home to wildlife. I’m also thankful for the feeling of peace I get when I see the beautiful, wide open valley before me, and that is something that all of us can feel driving past it on Highway 395,”
The Numa (People), or Northern Paiute groups, were hunter-gatherers in the region prior to the arrival of Europeans. John C. Frémont and Kit Carson explored Huntoon Valley, passing through the ranch during their travels from Bridgeport to Swauger Creek and Devils Gate in 1844.
The ranch has raised livestock for more than 90 years.
For decades prior to Ullman's ownership, the property was used by Mono Land and Livestock Co. and the Sario family for sheep ranching. The original stagecoach stop (the red barn beside Highway 395) built in the 1800s is still in use on the ranch.
The ranch is within the migration corridor and summer range of the East and West Walker mule deer herds, with several hundred deer passing through the valley annually. Bi-State sage-grouse gather on nearby leks for their famous annual mating dance. Sage-grouse hens then nest in sagebrush on the ranch and bring chicks to the ranch’s green meadows to forage. The ranch also provides a buffer for alpine habitat used by endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep.
Funding for this project was provided by the fedral Natural Resources Conservation Service and the California Strategic Growth Council’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation program.