Ranch house
Ranch House at the D.H. Lawrence Ranch, located north of Taos, N.M.
Credit: Mara Kerkez

In recognition of the cultural, educational and historic importance of the D.H. Lawrence Ranch, the University of New Mexico has announced the formation of D.H. Lawrence Ranch Initiatives which involves both the academic and facilities management entities.

Department of English Professor Sharon Oard Warner and Physical Plant Department Associate Director R. Gary Smith will co-chair the D.H. Lawrence Ranch Initiatives.

Warner has been a longtime advocate for the property. She was one of two New Mexico scholars who contributed to the successful National Registry Proposal for the D.H. Lawrence Ranch, located north of Taos, N.M. Warner is also the founder and director of the nationally-recognized Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. Recently, she also founded the affiliated program, Rananim, an online writing community that is named for D.H. Lawrence’s dreamed of Utopian society.

Smith will serve as co-chair in charge of facilities. In the coming months, Warner and Smith will form an advisory board to assist in the planning and implementation of ranch initiatives. They welcome nominations for the advisory board and will be accepting suggestions and self-nominations through Dec. 15, 2014 at swarner@unm.edu

The purpose of the ranch initiatives is to preserve the legacy of novelist D.H. Lawrence and his wife, Frieda. Widely considered one of the most important writers of the 20th century, the British novelist owned only one piece of property in his lifetime, a 160-acre ranch located some 15 miles outside of Taos, which was bequeathed to UNM by Frieda Lawrence.   

Fundamental to the mission of the D.H. Lawrence Ranch Initiatives is preservation of the property and historic buildings. Warner said, “The leadership structure was established in part because the ranch has long needed an advocate, someone who can service as a liaison between the university and various stakeholders in the Taos community and elsewhere.”

The Ranch Initiatives program will seek to place the operation of the property on a firm financial basis and to restore and develop the site so that it can support educational, cultural, and research activities for students, faculty, and the greater New Mexico community. This mission honors the directives of Frieda’s will, which stipulated that the property “be used for educational, cultural, charitable and recreational purposes.”

Smith says the advisory board will establish both long and short terms goals for the property. “We need to upgrade the water holding tank and pump, and eventually drill a new well," he said. "We also need to do some electrical upgrades and we would like to develop the ranch for visitors.”

The D.H. Lawrence Ranch is more than 7,500 feet above sea level and has panoramic views of the Taos village miles below and the Taos Valley to the south. The property is ringed by mountains. The Rio Grande Gorge is visible in the distance to the west, and plateaus and mesas all the way to Mount Taylor. The pine forest surrounding the property abuts the Carson National Forest. Smith notes that some forest thinning needs to be done to protect the cultural properties from fire.

Students regularly spent summer weeks at the ranch more than 20 years ago studying subjects as diverse as art and archaeology, but many upgrades need to be made to the facilities before the ranch can think about hosting students or writing groups.

Updates on ranch initiatives will be available at Rananim. For additional information contact Sharon Oard Warner at 505-277-5264 or email, swarner@unm.edu.