Jeff Lee - Creating a Literary Home on the Range - Mountain & Prairie Podcast
Jeff Lee is the co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Land Library, a residential library located on a historic ranch in one of Colorado's most beautiful and dramatic high country grassland basins. The Buffalo Peaks Ranch, as it is known, will eventually house a collection of over 35,000 books related to natural history, conservation, and the American West. These books will be dispersed throughout ranch in houses and agricultural structures that have been preserved and restored by a growing team of enthusiastic volunteers. The ranch will become a place where individuals can immerse themselves in a natural setting, surrounded by books, for days at a time to read, write, and work on projects related to the West’s unique landscapes.
The idea for the Land Library came to Jeff and his wife Ann (the library’s other co-founder) when they visited a residential library in Europe during the mid-1990s. Given their deep love of books and land, Jeff and Ann immediately saw the potential for a similar concept in Colorado that centered around the history and landscapes of the American West. More than 20 years and tens of thousands of books later, their vision has become a reality—the Rocky Mountain Land Library is open for business and continuing to grow and evolve.
For anyone who has listened to this podcast, you know that the Land Library is my dream come true—it combines ranches, conservation, nature, and books—so I was obviously extremely excited to chat with Jeff. In a little over an hour, we covered a ton of interesting information, including the project’s backstory, the history of the ranch, and Jeff and Ann’s long term vision for the Land Library. Of course, we discuss books, and Jeff has many excellent recommendations that were brand new to me. It’s worth noting that the Land Library is in the midst of the a fundraising campaign, so I encourage you to visit their KickStarter page, watch the video, and donate to the cause... I just did, so you definitely should too! Links to everything are in the episode notes.
If you love the West, love books, and love the land, I can guarantee you will love the Land Library and this episode. Enjoy!
2:40 - How Jeff describes his work
3:45 - Backstory on the Land Library
4:40 - Jeff’s introduction to the West
7:00 - Lake Powell, water, and differences between the East and West
7:55 - The early beginnings of Jeff’s book collection
10:55 - The initial idea for the Land Library
13:50 - Challenges of storing tens of thousands of books
17:00 - South Park, Colorado described
19:30 - Early search for a Land Library site
23:45 - Unique experience on a ranch versus pristine wilderness
25:45 - Current state of the Land Library
28:10 - Cook’s House restoration - Kickstarter Campaign
29:40 - History of Buffalo Peaks Ranch
34:10 - How Jeff defines “conservation”
35:30 - Interesting people and groups who have visited and volunteered at the ranch
40:00 - How Jeff and Ann were able to take the Land Library from an idea to reality
42:20 - Jeff’s recommended books about the West
44:45 - Recommended biographies
51:00 - The interconnectedness of historical figures
52:25 - Purchase these books at your LOCAL bookstore!!
53:20 - Books that Jeff has gifted or recommended
57:40 - Jeff’s most powerful outdoor experience
1:00:10 - Favorite location in the West
1:03:30 - Jeff’s request of the listeners
1:04:40 - Connect with the Land Library online