Project Description

Hunewill Ranch is a working ranch located in the heart of Bridgeport Valley. The ranch spans wide, green, irrigated meadows, rises to sagebrush steppe, and is framed by the high peaks that border Yosemite National Park.

The Hunewill Ranch conservation easement permanently conserves 4,100 acres and over six miles of rivers and streams in Bridgeport Valley. It marks ESLT’s largest conservation easement to date and helps ensure a bright, secure future for Bridgeport Valley. This historic agreement protects critical habitat for wildlife like mule deer, American badger, and Bi-State sage-grouse, while also ensuring that Hunewill Ranch can continue its sustainable cattle ranching operations.

Thanks to the incredible Hunewill family, our funding partners, and supporters like you, this beautiful, expansive ranch will remain open and thriving for generations to come.

“We are deeply grateful to the fine people that are Eastern Sierra Land Trust. It is very important to our family that this ranch be preserved and remain green and productive forever. Through their steadfast commitment to the preservation of the Bridgeport ranch, ESLT has helped us to realize that goal.”

– Jeff Hunewill, landowner at Hunewill Ranch

A Harmony of History and Habitat

It was 1859 when Esther and Napoleon Bonaparte Hunewill married, crossed the Isthmus of Panama, and came to California. That same year, W.S. Bodey struck gold.

Esther and Napoleon founded Hunewill Ranch in 1861 to supply timber hauled by teams of oxen to the young mining town of Bodie. When the competing Mono Mills and Bodie & Benton Railway began operations in 1881, the canny businessman Napoleon decided to supply beef to Bodie as well.

The family has since owned and managed daily operations at their beef cattle ranch over seven generations, making them one of our region’s longest-established ranching families. Hunewill Ranch has also operated a guest ranch since 1931, welcoming paying visitors to learn to ride horses and herd cattle. They have been exceptional stewards of their land, which hosts Bi-State sage-grouse, black bear, mule deer, Swainson’s hawk, and much more.

The Hunewill family’s dedication to conservation led them to protect the ranch’s native grasslands, wildlife habitat, and scenic views forever with a conservation easement. This amazing result comes after years of hard work, and was made possible by supporters like you.

A conservation easement property protects conservation values such as wildlife habitat, while allowing livestock grazing and providing continued economic benefits for the region. These benefits take the form of jobs, productivity, and property taxes.

This new conservation easement allows the Hunewill family’s legacy as a bedrock of the Eastern Sierra community and economy to continue; they will continue to own and operate their ranch much as they have since 1861.

The conservation easement also restricts certain future uses and limits subdivision, ensuring that the heart of the vast Bridgeport Valley will remain open and scenic forever, for people and wildlife.

By agreeing not to subdivide and develop the ranch, the Hunewills preserved a critical migration route and secured habitat for a variety of wide-ranging species such as mule deer, Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, Bi-State sage-grouse, American badger, and black bear. The ranch also provides animals room to roam, protecting neighboring public and private conserved lands.

Meet the Wildlife that Thrive Here

Mule deer migrate to Hunewill Ranch each year. Many spend summers in the Sierra Nevada slopes within the ranch boundary.

Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep live in alpine areas nearby. Hunewill Ranch buffers their homes, reducing threats to this federally-listed endangered species.

Bi-State sage-grouse gather annually just a few miles southeast of Hunewill Ranch for their famous annual mating dance. Females then nest in sagebrush and bring chicks to the ranch’s green meadows.

American badger live in the ranch’s grasslands and low canopies of sagebrush and bitterbrush. This fossorial (digging) mammal is a California Species of Special Concern, and requires wide open, undeveloped areas like Hunewill Ranch to thrive.

About the Funders

Natural Resources Conservation Service provides financial and technical resources that help landowners and partners protect the nation’s most productive grasslands, wetlands, and agricultural lands by providing funding to purchase easements on private working lands. NRCS’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program that protects grasslands of special significance provided funding for the Hunewill Ranch conservation easement because of the habitat the ranch provides for Bi-State sage-grouse.

California Wildlife Conservation Board protects, restores, and enhances California’s spectacular natural resources for wildlife and for the public’s use and enjoyment in partnership with conservation groups, government agencies, and the people of California.

California Deer Association‘s principal goal is to improve California deer herds and other wildlife through direct financial support for habitat improvement and research projects.

California Department of Conservation balances today’s needs with tomorrow’s challenges and fosters intelligent, sustainable, and efficient use of California’s energy, land, and mineral resources.

Learn more about conservation in Bridgeport Valley

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