August 12, 2016 was a great day for the Bufford Ranch as 260 acres of this Kern County cattle ranch was placed under a conservation easement, permanently protecting the balance of the 844 acre property. The Bufford Ranch is located 50 miles east of Bakersfield in the foothills between Breckenridge Mountain and Piute Peak Mountain in Kern County. The first easement on Bufford Ranch closed in 2013, permanently protecting the original 575 acre ranch.
“My plan was to leave the land better than I found it,” ranch owner Ernest C. Bufford said. “I’m still working on it but I think I’ve done that already. The rest of my plan is to keep this land in the family and protected forever.”
Bufford is an avid hunter and conservationist. A former highway patrolman and U.S. Marshal with a passion for conserving land in Kern County, Bufford hunted in every western state, often on cattle ranches, which gave him an appreciation for western landscapes and open space. While he still hunts game, hunting for archeological artifacts on the ranch – older than what is known or expected from the southern Sierra Nevada area – is his newest sport. Working with Dr. Yoke from California State University, Bakersfield Biology/Archaeology Department, a rich assortment of artifacts from Pre-Historic and Native American populations has been catalogued.
Six ecosystem types consisting of pinyon-juniper, blue oak-foothill pine woodland, montane-riparian, grassland, chaparral, and desert shrub cover the ranch. The southern portion is dominated by California juniper and pinyon pine and contains areas with riparian habitats and wet meadows. Bufford Creek, which feeds the Kern River, flows through the property which supports diverse species such as chia, California buttercup, miner’s lettuce, purple needlegrass, and blue wildrye. Moving north on the ranch, level meadowlands transition to steep, rocky uplands as the terrain climbs 1,300 feet to reach an elevation of 4,900 feet.
The combination of undisturbed habitats surrounded by the Sierra National Forrest and Bureau of Land Management lands create an excellent migration corridor between Breckenridge Mountain and Piute Peak Mountain for a wide variety of animals. The consistent water sources combined with relative undisturbed habitat create high quality breeding, hunting, and refuge habitat for many wildlife species including mule deer, bobcat, gray fox, mountain lion, and many native bird species.
“The Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) is proud to be a partner with California Rangeland Trust in the 260 acre Bufford Ranch Conservation Easement,” said John Donnelly, WCB Executive Director. “The ability to preserve and protect working landscapes, including grazing and grasslands, wildlife habitat, cultural values, and watersheds, is a real opportunity to sustain these habitat types in perpetuity for future generations.”
California Rangeland Trust CEO Nita Vail said, “The Bufford Ranch is a striking example of how conservation partnerships between the Rangeland Trust, the Wildlife Conservation Board, and Mr. Bufford can keep ranchers on the land and wildlife protected in the future.”
About California Rangeland TrustThe California Rangeland Trust, a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation, was created to conserve the open space, natural habitat and stewardship provided by California’s ranches. To date, the Rangeland Trust has protected more than
311,751 acresof productive grazing lands across the state through the use of conservation easements. For more information, visit www.rangelandtrust.org.