Honoring a Wish to Protect New Mexico’s Countryside

“Karl didn’t want his land developed. He wanted to protect its wildlife habitat and the natural springs that flowed through it”

-Richard Bock

It started with an article in the Abiquiu Post newspaper in 1996. Richard Bock had started the quarterly paper a few years’ prior in this tiny New Mexico hamlet to promote the first artist studio tour in the area. That fall he published a front page article about

One of several breathtaking views from Karl Bode’s 57-acre property

conservation and land trusts. The article, “Preserving the Countryside” addressed a growing concern about the rapid development of rural land in northern New Mexico and provided a guide for interested parties to protect their property from development for the future.

The article resonated with Abiquiu resident Karl Bode, who owned a 57-acre piece of land a few miles southwest of town along the Arroyo de los Frijoles in the Santa Fe National Forest. Karl had a keen interest in protecting his land from future development, and he tracked down Richard to talk about land trusts.

Soon after, Karl asked Richard to help him find an organization that could take over protecting his land after he passed away. Over the next 23 years, Richard researched and contacted 15 to 20 organizations across the country, trying to fulfill Karl’s wish to protect his land in its natural state.

“Karl didn’t want his land developed. He wanted to protect its wildlife habitat and the natural springs that flowed through it,” says Richard. “Many of the organizations I talked to wanted to put conservation easements on the property, but keep ownership with the family. Karl Bode confided to me that he wanted a higher level of protection,” says Richard.

It was another newspaper article in 2017 that decided the future of Karl’s land.

“On the front page of the Santa Fe New Mexican was an article about the federal government accepting land from The Wilderness Land Trust that would protect the land forever,” says Richard.

The nearly 3,600-acre property was located next to the Sabinoso Wilderness, and by transferring it to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), The Wilderness Land Trust ensured the former ranch property would remain undeveloped and also provide public access to the Sabinoso Wilderness for the first time since its designation in 2009. Richard says he’d already researched The Wilderness Land Trust as an option, but that article was the clincher.

“The Sabinoso article provided me with the impetus to counsel Karl that The Wilderness Land Trust was the proper conduit to achieve his dream. He concurred and moved forward with an amendment to his trust, donating his 57-acre property to The Wilderness Land Trust upon his passing,” says Richard.

Aimee Rutledge, vice president and senior lands specialist, on a site visit with Karl Bode in 2015

Richard started out as a facilitator for Karl, tasked with finding the best way to donate and protect his land, but in the process of helping him, a deep friendship emerged. Richard recalls how Karl’s family emigrated from Germany in 1914 and ended up in Abiquiu in 1918 where his father ran the local general store and raised his family, who grew to love the rugged New Mexico landscape.

Karl took Richard to see his cherished property several times over the years, and spoke often about the need to protect it from development. The land, Richard says, is truly pristine. Water flows through it year round despite its desert surroundings, and there is evidence of a several hundred-year-old civilization with rock foundations and adobe houses that have long been reclaimed by the earth.

Karl Bode passed away in December 2019, and The Wilderness Land Trust honored his wish by accepting his land donation with the intention of transferring it to the U.S. Forest Service so it can be protected for future generations to enjoy just as Karl did, in its natural state.

If you are interested in learning more about how to create a legacy through estate giving, we invite you to contact Brad Borst, president, The Wilderness Land Trust, 206-397-5240, brad@wildernesslandtrust.org.

A 50+ year-old cabin on the 57-acre property Karl Bode gifted to The Wilderness Land Trust (left)

(below) Aimee Rutledge discusses
conservation  with Karl Bode in 2015