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Landowners & Friends

Werner and Helen Muller and Family

Narrative by Werner Muller . . .

Helen and I arrived in San Miguel County with our young family in the late summer of 1970. Initially we lived in town but began to fulfill a dream of living closer to the land by ranching and raising trout on 100 acres in the upper reaches of Sapello Canyon.  Our commitment to stewardship of the land, sustainable agriculture, range management and conservation of native habitat, was just an extension of our exposure to, and love for, small farming during our childhood. 

In 1975 we purchased 100 acres of windblown, over grazed, dry land southeast of Las Vegas. It was the nucleus of the land we own today. We enjoyed a lifestyle that was more than we dreamed of—just six minutes from my university job and the basis of our small farming/ranching operation where we raised our family.  We built a passive solar home and livestock barn in 1976.  Helen’s 67-year-old widowed mother Frances Tyson joined us in 1979. She was an environmental activist and a “New Mexico Living Treasure” (1993) recognized for her commitment to the land and “every living thing’s” right to a healthy, pollution-free environment.

With a 9N Ford tractor and a 1942 jeep, our growing family worked with Tierra y Montes Soil Conservation district, the San Miguel County Extension Service and New Mexico State to restore the grassland and prepare the irrigated land for raising hay. Beginning in the summer of 1979, as shareholders in the Storrie Project Water Users Association (SPWUA), we were delivered six inches of water per irrigable acre. Through conservation practices and storage of water in Storrie Lake, based on the wise planning of the Association board of directors, we were able to have a little water every year for the next 35 years—enough to rejuvenate the land. The land provided our family the opportunity to begin a small farming operation; a 30 head cow- calf operation, eggs, and hay production and summer pasture in Sapello Canyon.  With our neighbors (who embraced farming and ranching traditions for many years), our family was active in the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, in the county 4H program, the San Miguel county fair, and local ranch rodeos. 

The land is located on both sides of the main road to the Las Vegas Wildlife Refuge. It is a small part of what one day could be a greenbelt around the growing city and bedroom community of Las Vegas. Local and visiting bikers, joggers, fishermen, bird watchers, campers, and horse riders are regulars in route to the Wildlife Refuge.

But encroachment of small subdivisions on the land immediately surrounding the city of Las Vegas in San Miguel County is a real threat to our vision for planned growth in a sustainable agricultural environment, and the dream of a green belt and space in our community: space that includes dry land, irrigated land and a riparian environment in one small parcel.

In 1998, Frances Tyson donated 57 acres of the current contiguous parcel of land to the New Mexico Land Conservancy. Our family welcomed the opportunity to carry on the tradition by donating 22 adjoining acres to her original easement.

We have partnered with United World College, with the Quivira Coalition, the New Mexico Organic Commodities Commission, and the Northern New Mexico Acequia Association to further sustainable range and farm management practices.  All of the leased grass, dry and irrigated land within this conservancy easement has been organically certified for the past two years by the NM Organic Commodity Commission (NMOCC #401). Since 2008 we have been leasing pasture to the HOBO Ranch Organically Certified Beef LLC (owners Dan and Mary Flitner (NMOCC#358)) where we have “finished” organically grass-fed cattle. Low stress management of the cattle and high density grazing through rotational grazing practices have significantly improved the production of organic beef and improved the irrigated pasture and rangeland.

We hope that by donating this conservancy easement in partnership with the State of New Mexico we have planted seeds to encourage sound management of land and water for sustainable agriculture; the protection of wildlife habitat; the enjoyment of uncluttered space, and provided an educational resource site for sustainable agriculture, in northern New Mexico.  We want this to be our family’s legacy and gift to San Miguel County, our home for 40 years. 

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