John and Carolyn Doherty’s 32,000-acre ranch in Las Animas County is the product of five generations of outstanding land management. John’s grandfather, “Papa Joe,” understood the importance of conservation, especially water management, to a ranching operation. His approach was passed down to John’s parents, Joe and “Tiny.”
Tiny, after the unexpected passing of her husband, took the reins of the ranch, joining the Society for Ranch Management and entering into one of the first Great Plains Contracts with the Soil Conservation Service in Colorado. Her philosophy of responsible land management and lifelong learning was passed on to John who, along with Carolyn, continues to follow the conservation ethic practiced by his predecessors.
Like John’s grandfather, John and Carolyn have taken several steps to effectively manage water distribution on the ranch. They have installed approximately 25 miles of livestock pipeline that ties several watering facilities together, providing clean sources of water for livestock and wildlife. The Dohertys also developed two erosion control dams/ponds that provide additional water sources.
Aside from water management, the family is committed to brush control to improve the ranch’s grassland. The Dohertys have removed woody invasive species such as juniper, pinion, and tamarisk from over 150 acres.
Their water and brush management techniques have created exceptional habitat for Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, pronghorn, black bear, big horn sheep, cougar, bobcat, red tail hawk, golden eagle, and prairie rattlesnakes.
John has been dedicated to continued education and civic engagement. He has been a Soil Conservation District Supervisor and a member of the Branson-Trinchera Conservation District for 40 years, helping to guide conservation efforts in Las Animas County. He has provided his ranch as a demonstration site for novel conservation methods and technologies. John led the formation of prescribed burning cooperative, which allows ranchers in the region to manage densities of juniper to improve watershed function, decrease erosion, and improve vegetation and forage for livestock and wildlife.
“Through John’s actions and guidance numerous individuals in Colorado and New Mexico have realized that to be successful in the ranching business it is most important to be a steward of the land first,” wrote Kenn Lutz, retired SCS District Conservationist, in his letter of recommendation. “The cows, the horses, the equipment all come after that. Take a trip through the Mesa de Maya and that will become readily apparent.”