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Meet Jeanne Beaudry

Written by Anne Vickstrom on .

Jeanne Beaudry has been holding out on us. As Mountain Area Land Trust Executive Director she's known to be a pleasant, intelligent and a capable executive. Underneath that sophistication, however, lies an explosive, exhilarating adventurer. She admits, “My husband said I’ve lived more lives than a cat.”

Indeed, she has led a very full life.  Her love of the mountains and especially the trees is easily understood. “I was born in Holland, MI but that’s not really where I grew up.” Try U.S. National Parks. Her father worked for the National Park Service. “I lived my early years in ranger stations in Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon.” Not a bad backyard by any standards. “We camped and traveled other parks. I never really knew why I loved trees so much, and then I realized that I grew up around huge Redwoods,” she laughed.

Different assignments put her brother and her in remote areas. “I missed Kindergarten,” she said. That was when “my mother put her foot down” and insisted that they take a more permanent position, leading them to Denver. “I grew up in the Bear Creek area. I’ve had a great life. At some point I realized that Colorado was home. I mean, I grew up in Red Rocks; in high school I used to come up to Evergreen for lunch. We lived rurally back then.” 

She and her first husband lived in Portland for several years where she worked as a temporary employee for a potato company, “they made French fries,” she explained. Jeanne told how one day “the boss came in and asked all these research scientists what they thought and no one spoke up. I told him I didn’t think what we were doing tasted good. He said that finally someone was honest with him and told them to find me a job. I became a statistical analyst and I was able to rise in the job over the five years I was there.” They also lived in Alaska where she worked for Alaska Fish and Game Department.

In 1984 an opportunity arose to move to Aspen. Jeanne worked for the Aspen Ski Company where she coordinated ski school on all the mountains. She then worked for the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. One of her accomplishments was bringing conservancy projects to the ski areas. It’s because of Jeanne that there are environmental learning centers at Aspen ski areas today. In 1990 she and her husband divorced. She went on to work at the Aspen Valley Land Trust, perhaps a foreshadowing of where she is today.

In 1995 she left the Aspen valley and joined the Peace Corps that sent her to Tonga in the South Pacific. “I was a technical advisor; I taught local teachers about environmental beach clean-ups, sustainable clam programs, and other programs.” She explained that the local fisherman didn’t understand the importance of leaving certain aged clams in order for the species to continue to thrive.

Later, she received a grant to determine if the Tongan Megapode, a native bird believed to be extinct, might actually still exist. It did! “In the 1950s a German expedition had gathered chicks and tried to deliver them to a deserted island where they might live without predators. They couldn’t land on the island so they just chucked the crates with chicks into the water,” she laughed at the absurdity. “No one had been to the island since then. We explored the island and found them there. Now it’s a protected area.”

She became contemplative and added, “They say it’s not about being in the Peace Corps, it’s about finding peace at your core. I’m not sure how much I appreciated what it meant to be a woman in other cultures. If you were 40 in Tonga, you were dead. In Tonga and Papua New Guinea, when you met with the ‘elders’ they were in their 20s. You set out into the world and see a new perspective.”

In Tonga Jeanne met fellow adventurers and following the Peace Corps, sailed with them in New Zealand, Australia and over to Papua New Guinea. Asked about the rough waters, she simply rolled her eyes and shook her head. Some things are better left unsaid. Then, with two others whom she had met upon her return from Tonga, Jeanne purchased a sail boat. “It was a 70-foot catamaran and we planned to sail around the world on it.” They sailed down the Mexican coast, resting it in Guatemala.

Jeanne returned to Denver because her father had heart surgery. Afterwards she briefly returned to Aspen “to pick up my skis.” People who knew her reputation as a hard worker offered her a job. Jeanne established several non-profit organizations and became the founding Executive Director of the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a watershed group that works in the valley between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.

She also went on to lead educational hiking tours throughout the world and spent two summer seasons as expedition staff on the Antarctic Peninsula and an additional summer in the Arctic as a Marine Biologist/Zodiac Driver/Photographer through Quark, the first tourism transit of the Northeast Passage.

“I had taught skiing with a woman who coordinated these trips. She said, ‘But you have to go on a moment’s notice.’ I told them that I would do anything for the first trip, so I worked for free and just shadowed other leaders. Each time I would lead a different tour, so it was always as exciting for me as it was for those on my tour.” Her work with Quark, led Jeanne to Natural Habitat Adventures. “I led tours primarily focused on bears. I went to Alaska, Canada and the Canyon Country in Utah.”

When her mother became ill, Jeanne “decided to take a year off and help her. But then, I was asked to be the start-up Director at the Alliance Center and thought I would stay for one or two years and then move back to Aspen.” The Alliance Center combines the efforts of 45 groups including organizations involved in environmental, political action, Hispanic groups, working for the blind, and many more; “It’s a hub of all sorts of groups.”

Jeanne stopped and let her feelings emerge in a smile across her face. “And then I met up with Jack Butterfield.” Jack is a retired firefighter and it appears, the love of her life. They attended both junior high and high school together and “grew up skiing together.” When they married, Jeanne was delighted to gain three sons in the deal, all of whom live in Colorado.

Jack lived in Evergreen so Jeanne looked for work up here. “I had been working downtown at the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado. I looked into the Beaver Brook Watershed where I learned about Mountain Area Land Trust. They were looking for a new Director, so I sent them my résumé.” The rest is history.

“I stopped guiding after I met Jack; it’s not conducive to marriage.” She showed surprise when she said, “When we got together, he didn’t even have a passport.” He has one now and during their time together they have traveled extensively, including New Zealand, Australia, Alaska, Greece, Turkey, Argentina and Chile.

After her work at MALT is done each day and when she and her husband are not traveling, she enjoys hiking in the area and spending time with family. She claims to “have calmed down. I ski a lot and raft; I’ve done the Grand Canyon.” Jeanne’s idea of calming down might mean something different to most people.