Growing Up Wild

We asked a set of Conservancy parents in Colorado about their strong desire to connect their kids to nature. 

"Our experiences built a strong bond with our family while our children gained an understanding of nature and all that it provides us."


The Nature Conservancy:

What do you do for The Nature Conservancy?

Geoff and Betsy Blakeslee:

Betsy: I’m the outreach and facilities manager at Carpenter Ranch located in northwest Colorado. I schedule everything that happens on the ranch, including school visits, community meetings, and events. I oversee preserve volunteers and summer interns. I’m also responsible for facility maintenance.

Geoff: I am the Yampa Valley Project Coordinator. I work closely with local landowners and partners on water and land protection issues. I represent the Conservancy in the policy arena. Additionally, I oversee the preserve’s ranching operation and work closely with our lessee.

The Nature Conservancy:

Describe nature to you in three adjectives.

Geoff and Betsy Blakeslee:

Betsy: magic; adventure and beauty
Geoff: beauty, wonder and excitement

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?

Geoff and Betsy Blakeslee:

Betsy: I think it’s an opportunity for us to pick up the slack and provide families with a place to play. It can be a challenge to get children out to a learning environment but the benefits are huge. When young people get outside, they gain a relationship with nature and understand more about themselves.

Geoff: It’s difficult for me to relate to that because we’ve always lived in rural areas. Our children grew up spending more time outdoors than inside. They have an incredible appreciation for nature. I hope opportunities at Carpenter Ranch will open horizons for youth in Colorado.

The Nature Conservancy:

How does it make you feel when you see kids connecting with nature?

Geoff and Betsy Blakeslee:

Betsy: I love to see the joy on their faces when they get to run around and play and learn about the land and water! I’m grateful we have this amazing place for families to let loose and learn about all that nature provides us.

Geoff: It’s fun to see their reaction, enthusiasm and excitement! Seeing their joy reinvigorates my excitement for what I get to do every day of my life.

The Nature Conservancy:

Why was it important to you to get your children connected to nature?

Geoff and Betsy Blakeslee:

Betsy: Nature is our biggest teacher. If we understand nature, we better understand seasons, physical and geographical areas, times of drought and times when there is too much water. Everything is connected to our environment. We wanted our children to have a respectful relationship with our natural world.

Geoff: When we had a family, I wanted to do something that gave us time together. We were in the ranching business. The kids got to hang out with me and be a part of that. Our experiences built a strong bond with our family while our children gained an understanding of nature and all that it provides us.

The Nature Conservancy:

How did growing up connected to nature impact your children’s lives?

Geoff and Betsy Blakeslee:

Betsy: They experienced countless benefits spending time outside. When you head out the door, your attitude changes and your senses come to life. It puts you in a place where you can really get away and escape to something beautiful and pristine. It can be meditative, stimulating, educational, artistic and supportive.

Geoff: They’re aware of their surroundings. For them, a trip to the beach is more than a vacation spot, it’s going to a place that supports coral reefs and sea life. They feel connected to their natural surroundings.

The Nature Conservancy:

What role did nature play in their adult life?

Geoff and Betsy Blakeslee:

Betsy: Their passion and respect for nature is clearly a part of everything they do.

Andy has an environmental studies degree, is a world-class kayaker and has chosen a career in alternative energy production. He works for an energy company in California.

Anna has a master’s degree in elementary education. She takes her students on field trips into forests, rivers, and on snowshoes. She is raising her son on Carpenter Ranch.

Sarah has a degree in geography, and a master’s in Natural Resources and Peace from a United Nations school in Costa Rica. Sarah has worked in conservation since she graduated from college, which has included teaching reef ecology in the Bahamas and advocating for clean water in San Diego Bay.

The Nature Conservancy:

How do activities at Carpenter Ranch impact children?

Geoff and Betsy Blakeslee:

Betsy: It’s important to provide opportunities for youth to get out and get to know nature. We believe their experiences will help them understand their responsibility for helping maintain balance in our natural world. They are the conservationists of the future.

Geoff: Interns from big cities stay at the preserve every summer. It’s amazing to me how they thrive when this whole new world is opened up to them. It’s so much fun to see that happen.


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