Colorado 2018 Beatty Canyon Ranch Kim Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

Beatty Canyon Ranch

Beatty Canyon Ranch shines at doing right by the land, water, livestock and wildlife amid the grandeur of southeastern Colorado’s canyon landscape.

Steve and Joy Wooten, along with their daughter and son-in-law, Arin and Brady Burnham, and daughter and son-in-law, Niki and Rusty Henard, produce high quality beef by grazing a herd of Red Angus cattle through numerous pastures that divide the Las Animas County ranch.

The Wooten Family, now in its 5th and 6th generations, frequently opens their home and ranch to tours to advance awareness about modern ranching and farming practices, and share their focus on being outstanding land stewards. Each member of the family is an industry spokesperson on topics such as grazing practices, treatment for invasive species, beef production issues, wildlife and natural resource management, and family finance and succession plans.

Steve and Joy completed a conservation easement that helped the Beatty Canyon Ranch plan for the future and ensure that the next generation had a place to return to.

The family has taken steps to combat an explosion and spread of Pinyon and Juniper trees on soils better suited for a native grassland ecosystem. For decades, the Wootens added windmills and stock ponds, worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to install solar and submersible pumps. Miles of pipeline now provide water to tanks distributed throughout the ranch. Each tank is equipped with animal escape devices to prevent wildlife death or injury.

A hunting enterprise has generated additional ranch revenue since 1990. It allows hunting of whitetail and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, bighorn sheep, quail, bear, mountain lion and other predators.

The Wootens later created the Purgatoire Wildlife Ranch, LLC with two other ranch families to improve hunting throughout the region. Fifteen families with high conservation values were invited to join the effort that allows selected state residents to hunt on a large swaths of private ranchland.

This arrangement has produced a significant financial impact to the community. It also provides an opportunity to share the importance of agriculture’s role in short grass prairie ecosystems. Most hunting guests had no previous knowledge of the diversity of Las Animas County’s unique landscapes, ecosystems, communities, and wildlife.

Neighbor, friend, and fellow rancher, Grady Grissom noted that “Steve and Joy’s land ethic is in their DNA. They are generational ranchers who understand, respect, and honor their heritage while also embracing adaptation and innovation.”

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Photos by Russ Schnitzer

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