Historic Conservation Values

Did you know that lands preserved by ESLT in partnership with private landowners have included what was once the highest elevation production orchard in the Country, the first farm established in Hammil Valley (also a railroad stop), and a portion of one of the earliest ranches in Big Meadows, which we now know as Bridgeport?

Apple orchard in Swall Meadows

Working in land conservation we spend a lot of time researching what we call the Conservation Values of each potential project, the unique characteristics of the property that make that location special enough for our organization to determine that it is worthy of conservation. These could be specific habitat for a species of special concern, significant prime farmland, or in some cases even an important scenic view that is enjoyed by the public. To document these things we rely often on experts such as biologists, soil scientists, as well as our own expertise and observations in the field. Personally, although it is my interest in land use and natural history that led me into this line of work, over the last few years I have found that it can be equally interesting to piece together the human history of a property too. Whether interviewing landowners, reviewing historic photographs, or interpreting copies of old homestead patents – there is a lot of detective work that anyone can do to better understand the history of the Eastern Sierra.  Place names can tell you a lot too, but don’t hang your hat on the spelling on the map. The recently completed Cinnamon Ranch conservation easement was actually named after the Sinnamon family; James Sinnamon struck it rich in Dogtown (near Bodie) before the family acquired several ranches in Mono County. To complicate things further, the ranch was first established by William Hamil, and while the ranch does not bear his name today at least the valley now does…albeit spelled Hammil.

BLM display on the Homestead Act at Mule Days 2012 (BLM)

If you are interested in the history of our area, check out one of our local museums (see below) or join us to learn more about the history of one of our current projects as part of our July Lands and Legacy Event.

-Aaron

Local opportunities to learn more about the history of the Eastern Sierra:

Mono County Museum in Bridgeport

Laws Museum near Bishop

Eastern California Museum in Independence

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