In 2017, Neil Arbegast approached the Conservancy about donating his ranch, which is known as the Arbegast-Tunawee. The Arbegast-Tunawee Ranch was established in the early 1930s, and it’s located in the Tunawee Canyon on the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada range approximately two miles northwest of the Conservancy’s Portuguese Bench Preserve, which contains a significant prehistoric village. Historically, this region was occupied by the Owens Valley Paiute and Panamint Shoshone tribes.
On November 6, 2019, archaeologist Derek Reaux and the Conservancy’s Western Regional Director Cory Wilkins visited the property to assess its archaeological potential. Prior to the Conservancy’s involvement in the project, no official archaeological work had been conducted in the project area. Reaux noted obsidian flaking debris in low density around the front of the ranch house. Arbegast then drove Reaux to the western boundary of the property, where he noticed obsidian flakes lining both sides of the road. He conducted an informal survey from the western boundary back to the ranch house, taking GPS coordinates, photographs, and brief notes of any significant findings. This area had the densest concentrations of cultural material.