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Eastern Sierra Land Trust Express: Celebrating Life and Love


January/February 2023 • ESLT News


Dear Conservation Hero,

There are so many ways to celebrate love during Valentine’s Week, and just as many types of love to celebrate.

Are you receiving our e-newsletter because you love the Eastern Sierra? Are you in awe of this region, whose beauty and depth can hardly be captured? Are you challenged by its tempestuous weather, its long droughts, and its terrific storms? Are you captivated by the wild animals that make the Eastern Sierra their home?

Love brings meaning into our lives, it gives us the urgency to act and the strength to keep moving forward. Love of the natural world drives the conservation that brings our community together.

It is in that light that we will remember our dear friend Phil Pister who passed in January. Our hearts are broken at his loss, but our shared love will pull us through. Phil loved the Eastern Sierra and its many creatures. He loved his partner, his family, and his community.

Phil fought for what he loved in his thirty years at the California Department of Fish and Game, and he passionately defended wildlife from human impacts throughout his long career. He was one of ESLT’s dearest friends, and we will miss him tremendously.

Hold your loved ones tight, and celebrate the feeling of love today, however it comes to you.

With Gratitude,


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Kay Ogden
Executive Director/CEO, ESLT
(760) 873-4554, [email protected]


Conservation News

Remembering Phil Pister


Our hearts are broken by the loss of our friend, Phil Pister. His career as a dedicated and preeminent biologist left its permanent mark in the scientific community, as his mentorship and kindness did to so many people.

Phil’s fast action in 1969 to save an entire species, the Owen’s River Pupfish, is a heroic conservation story that has inspired people around the world. You can hear Phil tell that story himself, here. The story of the Owens River Pupfish has not ended, as the species continues to survive over fifty years later.


An unwavering dedication to conservation led Phil to found the Desert Fishes Council, an organization that continues to work towards preserving the biological integrity of desert aquatic ecosystems and their associated lifeforms. In honor of his work to protect desert fish, two species of fish are named after him in Chihuahua and Nueva Leon, Mexico.

Phil’s long career as a biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game made him a beloved mentor to many, and an agitator to others. When Phil retired after 37 years at the Department in 1990, the LA Times ran a profile on him that illuminated his mentality during his career.

“Back in ’53 we were mainly concerned with just making fishing better,” Pister said. “Then all these environmental wars started. We have some strong arguments in our own office. There are people there that think, ‘The license buyers pay the bills, therefore our obligation is to them.’ I don’t accept that. You have a deeper obligation to the fish and wildlife resources themselves.

The height of modern man’s arrogance, Pister has said, is that “the earth has been here for four billion years and we should think these resources are here just for our use today.”

Phil didn’t always use so many words. When people used to ask him, “What good are the pupfish?” he would reply, “Well, what good are you?”

Phil and Marty at our December gathering.

Phil and his partner Marty have been advisors, supporters, and volunteers of ESLT for many years. They attended nearly every ESLT mixer in recent years and relished the opportunity to chat about conservation with community members.

Although we did not know it would be our last time, we were so very grateful to sit around the campfire with Phil in December at our holiday gathering.

Phil’s last trip to the field: October 2022.

Phil’s Celebration of Life will be held on May 20th at 2 pm at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory in the Page Center (SNARL).

His warmth and perseverance will be close to our hearts as we continue to work towards our shared vision of protecting the Eastern Sierra and all of the species that call it home.

We will be writing more about the life of this remarkable man in the coming weeks. If you would like to share stories about Phil with us, please reach out to [email protected]



Leslie Hunewill Joins ESLT Board


We are thrilled to welcome sixth-generation Bridgeport Valley rancher and Eastern Sierra advocate, Leslie Hunewill, to our Board of Directors.

Leslie lives and works at Hunewill Ranch in Bridgeport Valley where her family raises cattle and operates a guest ranch. In August 2020, Eastern Sierra Land Trust completed a conservation easement with the Hunewill family, permanently protecting 4,100 acres of the family’s historic ranch.

After many years of supporting and partnering with ESLT, Leslie is thankful for the opportunity to now help advance their important land conservation work by joining the board of directors.


Help OVIWC Secure Three Creeks


The Owens Valley Indian Water Commission (OVIWC) has an exciting opportunity to purchase an extraordinary plot of land south of Big Pine. Known as Three Creeks, this land would be used for education, ceremony, and celebration. Three creeks is an oasis, and transferring it to OVIWC will be a significant step towards bringing water and land back to indigenous care.

The OVIWC has until February 21st to raise the funds for the purchase. You can learn more about Three Creeks and how to contribute to the effort at


Join Our Team


Do you love the Eastern Sierra? Are you looking for a way to give back to our land and community? Apply today to become ESLT’s next AmeriCorps Member!

We are seeking an enthusiastic, conservation-minded young leader to commit to an eight-month service term to help protect the Eastern Sierra by joining us as this year’s AmeriCorps Member and Education Coordinator. You can help us fill this important role by applying or forwarding this position to someone you think might be great for the job. The service term will start in February and goes through September 2023.

Applications and more information about this position are available here.


Take Action to Help Mono Lake


Mono Lake needs your help. Despite this season’s early precipitation, the surface elevation of the lake is so low that the Mono Lake Committee is asking the State Water Board to suspend water diversions until a lake level is reached that can adequately support wildlife and ecosystems.

The Mono Lake Committee is asking the public to write letters to the State Water Board urging it to suspend diversions. Virtual letter templates and more action items are available on the MLC website.


Congress Passes the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act


After years of advocacy by the Land Trust Alliance and conservation partners, congress has officially passed the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act.

Photo by Rick Kattelmann

While the vast majority of conservation easements are made in good faith, a small number of bad actors have exploited the system in pursuit of profit. The act will counter these bad actors, and ensure that conservation easements remain one of the country’s most powerful conservation tools.

Read more about the passage of the bill.

Upper photo is Centennial Point Ranch Conservation Easement. Lower is Ullman Ranch Conservation Easement.


Sierra Business Council Is Hiring in Bishop


Sierra Business Council is seeking three qualified applicants to join its team. Two positions will help execute regional projects like the Community Economic Resilience Fund. The third is for the Director of the upcoming Business Resource Center in Bishop.

Head to SBC’s website for all three job descriptions.


SierraScapes Is Here


In case you missed it, our Fall/Winter 2022 SierraScapes is available online.

Inside the newsletter, you will find updates on the 30×30 Initiative and Mammoth Lakes 395 Wildlife Crossing, interviews with our new land program directors, a view into the world of physically monitoring conservation easements, and much much more.

These are exciting times at ESLT, and we are thrilled to share them with you in this edition of SierraScapes. Please reach out to us if you have any questions, want a physical copy sent to you, or want to go deeper on any of the articles.


Upcoming Events

Bighorn Sheep Field Trips
February 28th and March 17th

©Steve Yeager

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation are offering two free public field trips to view Sierra bighorn.

Pre-registration is required as space is limited and field trips are bighorn and weather dependent. To register and get more info, email: [email protected]

Field trips will meet at 9:00 am in Bishop and will conclude by around noon. The trips include very little walking.


Mule Deer Migration Corridor Field Trip
March 19th, 10 am – 12 pm


ESLT’s annual Mule Deer Migration Corridor Field Trip is back! CDFW Human-Wildlife Conflict Scientist Daniel Taylor will lead the trip alongside ESLT staff. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the Round Valley herd and about ESLT’s conservation work to protect the migration corridor.

For more info, and to RSVP, email [email protected]


Thank you for being a part of the ESLT family. With our caring landowners, volunteers, members, and supporters, we’re protecting a bright future for the Eastern Sierra.

Kay, Amanda, Amy, Byron, Carissa, Claire, Emmie, Heather, and our Board of Directors


(From Eastern Sierra Land Trust)

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