Field Notes

Four of Kathleen Butler’s Alpacas grazing at Butler Corner.

May 12, 2022

Fire Management Is Part of Conservation

“I do this work for the kids”

When Kathleen Butler talks about the night she almost lost her farm, her voice grows soft. Located in Boggy Draw, not far from Dolores, her farm straddles the San Juan National Forest to the South and East with clear views of mountains from four states.

Her land, conserved with the Montezuma Land Conservancy in 2017, is within the Dolores River Watershed area and is home to the Nature Center at Butler Corner.

The land has been in her family over 97 years and is incredibly special to her. With a staff of one, the 260-acre property provides a place for kids and families to connect with agriculture and nature through more than six miles of trails.

“Our farm is a place where people can slow down, connect, and re-connect to agriculture. The alpacas, goats, chickens, and geese provide that experience, along with the land,” reflects Kathleen. “This is a place for kids, for future generations—which is why I wanted to conserve it with the land trust.”

But all of that was almost lost about three years ago.

Thanks to the efforts of the sheriff’s department, local firefighters, and Forest Service, she, like many of her neighbors, was able to safely evacuate herself and her animals to the Montezuma County Fairgrounds. Fire management was always a priority for her, but now it has an additional level of urgency.

thinning the woods to prevent wildfires

Kathleen Butler overseeing the tree thinning taking place on her property to help prevent future wildfires.

Personal leadership and action

That’s why Kathleen is passionate about educating children about the forest and preventing unplanned, and out-of-control, future wildfires. As Kathleen mentioned, “It hurts to see my Ponderosa pines go but I know it will protect my land against wildfires and the beetle infestation.”

In working to prevent unplanned future wildfires, Kathleen credits her excellent relationship with the Forest Service, the local sheriff’s department, local firefighters, National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and Tom Ross with State Land Firewood, as helping to prevent future catastrophic forest fires and save her land.

Thanks to the personal leadership, action, and dedication of Kathleen, her land and community will be safe for future generations.