Growing Up Wild

A tale of two kids raised on a Nature Conservancy preserve. 

Matt Killeen felt not only a strong desire to work in nature, but also to raise a family in nature. We asked him a few questions about life at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. 

"Kids follow the example we, as parents and adults, set. If we don’t get outside they won’t either."


The Nature Conservancy:

What do you do for The Nature Conservancy?


I manage the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve in southern Arizona. We focus on riparian and grassland restoration as well as water conservation issues on the 926-acre property. Additionally, I work with the Malpai Borderlands Group in southern Arizona. That role entails monitoring conservation easements on 16 ranches that cover 80,000 acres on the Arizona-New Mexico state line, along with GIS mapping support.

The Nature Conservancy:

A new survey reveals parents around the world are concerned children are not spending enough time outdoors. What is your reaction to that?


Kids follow the example we, as parents and adults, set. If we don’t get outside they won’t either. Similarly if we don’t demonstrate a verbal and physical respect for nature they won’t either. Our family makes it a priority to have a minimum of one outing per weekend…and we all walk the dog in the evening while bird watching and checking out bugs on the ground.

The Nature Conservancy:

Why is it important to you that your children grow up connected to nature?


I want my children – ages 7 and 3 – to understand that their future is intertwined and dependent on the health of the natural settings that surround us. I also want them to see the beauty that lies out there, in all of its forms.

The Nature Conservancy:

How does spending time outdoors impact your children?


It gives them confidence, it gives them curiosity, it gives them patience, it gives them exercise, and it gives them respect for the living things we share this world with.

The Nature Conservancy:

You recently asked your daughter, Lia, what she likes about living on the preserve. What did she say?


She said, “It’s like we live at the zoo but there are no cages and the animals are wild.” A few minutes later, my 3-year-old son, Jasper, independently spotted and identified a Great Blue Heron flying overhead.


x animal

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