In the heart of scenic Huntoon Valley north of Bridgeport, the water, wildlife, and sustainable cattle ranching of the last 90 years will be preserved through a conservation easement by rancher George “Corky” Ullman and Eastern Sierra Land Trust.
At the foot of the Sweetwater Mountains, a shining creek curves through three miles of bright green meadows in Huntoon Valley. This seasonal cattle ranch, along the historic stagecoach route between Bridgeport and Devil’s Gate, produces beef cattle on irrigated pastureland and sagebrush steppe.
Ullman Ranch also protects habitat for Bi-State sage-grouse, which raise their chicks in the ranch’s wet meadows. Mr. Ullman is preserving a critical migration route for mule deer and securing habitat for a variety of wide-ranging wildlife such as the American badger, eagles, and songbirds.
Eastern Sierra Land Trust (ESLT) worked with Corky Ullman to create the conservation easement, and secured the federal, state, and local funding needed to complete the project.
Kay Ogden, Executive Director/CEO of ESLT, said “Mr. Ullman’s generosity meant that ESLT was able to acquire the conservation easement at a reduced purchase price.”
Rancher Corky Ullman comments, “I was fortunate to preserve the ranch. I didn’t want to develop the ranch. This agricultural conservation easement allowed me to preserve the ranch forever.”
The Numa (People), or Northern Paiute groups, were hunter-gatherers in the region prior to the arrival of John C. Frémont and Kit Carson, exploring the Huntoon Valley, passing through the ranch during their travels in Bridgeport in 1844.
The original stagecoach stop, built in the 1800s, is still in use at the ranch as the “Big Red Barn” and can be seen on Highway 395.
Funding for this project was provided by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the California Strategic Growth Council’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation program.
An agricultural easement property continues to provide economic benefits for the region in the form of jobs, productivity, and property taxes, while protecting specific conservation values such as water and wildlife habitat. Conservation easements are individually tailored to meet a landowner’s goals and the conservation values of the land.
“Because of Corky’s vision, this scenic valley with a rich history will remain as it is today,” says Kay Ogden, Executive Director/CEO of Eastern Sierra Land Trust.
Photo Courtesy of ESLT