Betty Shahan Profile: Stewardship Series


Betty, along with her neighbors, Bonnie and Hank, meet with Jerry Archuleta of the NRCS to tour the progress of the Navajo River Restoration Project on their land.

“It was the way I was made, it’s always been there and it will die when I die,” says Betty Shahan of how she developed her love of the land. Betty grew up in Archuleta County, the daughter of a saw miller.  Her mother’s side of the family raised cattle and as early as she can remember, she has felt a connection with animals. As a child, she always ran, and never walked, which would explain her desire to be involved with anything outdoors. As she got older, she fixed hair and gave permanents in the sawmill tents, so she always thought she would eventually become a beautician. After 8th grade, the small country school she attended was closed, so her mother sent her to Pagosa High School, despite her disinterest in attending a much larger school. It was there she met her to-be husband, Bob Shahan. They dated through high school and were married as soon as they could on June 2nd, immediately after graduating. Bob told Betty they were going to be ranchers and that she would have no need for attending beauty school. It was an exciting time for Betty. She explains, “When we started off, we did everything on the ranch.” Betty recalls that Bob really helped his parents figure out how to make the ranch profitable by changing their yearling operation to running cow-calf pairs. They started off by buying the least expensive (which also meant the least desirable and most ornery) cows. “We had a rodeo,” laughs Betty.  Because Betty had taken part in every aspect of ranch management, when Bob passed away of cancer in 1983, she knew exactly what to do. “So I just did it.” People often have asked Betty, “Aren’t you scared?” To that Betty always replies, “Because I started from the bottom, I have nothing to be afraid of.” One of Betty’s most recent accomplishments has been to put a conservation easement on her ranch. It has been heartbreaking for her to see development of the rural landscape; it is what inspired her to ensure that her land would remain as it is now for future generations.  She had a neighbor who showed her the ropes, and was her “rock” throughout the entire process. Knowing how helpful he was to her, Betty says that she is always talking to people about stewardship of the land. “I hope they’ll go away learning something that is helpful and that they’ll be brave enough to go forward.”