Over the fence and behind locked gates in Tehachapi lies a part of California history still largely untouched by modern-day life. The natural springs, native oaks, California wildflowers and lush grassy meadows of the Loop Ranch share space with cows, calves and bulls in a harmonious, centuries-old tradition known as cattle ranching.

It’s been my privilege to visit the ranch over the past 15 years, covering events and activities and getting to know Dal Bunn, who, for the last 40 years has been the foreman of the ranch owned by the Broome family. After all that time, he probably knows the land better than any other living person.

Known locally as president of the Tehachapi Mountain Rodeo Association, Bunn plans to continue ranching elsewhere in the area since the ranch has sold to become part of The Nature Conservancy’s Frank and Joan Randall Tehachapi Preserve. But cattle will remain part of the ranch’s future, in large part because grazing helps reduce the risk of wildfire.

The conservancy has noted that the range in elevation of the property represents one of its best qualities for its future as a nature preserve.

That’s been true for the land as a cattle ranch, as well. On the Loop Ranch, cattle graze on rich early spring grass at an elevation under 1,000 feet. Spring comes later at the higher elevations, meaning the cattle can find feed as they move to the backcountry, at 8,000 feet or so. They’ll stay up there grazing until the fall roundup by cowboys on horseback. The cattle are then sorted and doctored, if necessary.

It’s at roundup time that animals are selected for market, calves become fully weaned and the remaining livestock are turned back out onto the hillsides where the bulls will help foster the next generation.

Many of the old Tehachapi cattle ranches were turned into real estate developments decades ago. But the Loop Ranch has persisted and the land now has a new future, protected for future generations to enjoy its natural history and beauty.