Aaron Johnson, our Lands Program Coordinator, and myself, have been escaping the Bishop heat for cooler ground up in Mono County. We have begun the annual monitoring process of ESLT’s conservation easements. Each easement has its own monitoring plan, to be carried out according to the values for which it was preserved. All easements, however, must be monitored annually with the same degree of specificity and detail. We always schedule these visits in cooperation with the landowners and hope to have them join us.

This week we headed up to Yednock Conservation Easement in the eastern part of the Mono Basin. From there we traveled over Conway Summit to monitor Big Hot Springs Ranch Conservation Easement in the Bridgeport Valley.

Yednock Conservation Easement is a 480 acre parcel that preserves wildlife habitat and scenic views northeast of Mono Lake. We luckily arrived in the early morning so as to escape the mid day heat. The terrain in that part of the Mono Basin is relatively flat, with small scrub that does not provide any shade. Even in that desolate landscape, Aaron and I would have been lost without the aid of a GPS unit.

Monitoring consists partly of walking various boundary markers of the property to detect any infringements that may violate the conservation agreement. One challenging part of monitoring is often finding these points; sometimes the visible wooden stakes have blown over in strong winds. Along with the established photo points, the GPS points become crucial to navigating these boundary markers, even in seemingly navigable landscapes like Yednock.

Big Hot Springs Ranch Conservation Easement is smaller in size, measuring 75 acres. The property abuts HWY 395 just south of the town of Bridgeport, and serves as critical habitat for mule deer and various bird species. Monitoring this site took less than half of the time that Yednock did, so Aaron and I were able to enjoy a breezy lunch on a hill overlooking the Bridgeport Valley with the Sierra providing a magnificent backdrop.

Overall, a busy yet very fulfilling day making sure our Eastern Sierra landscapes stay open, beautiful, and protected.