The ranch is owned by the Union Land and Grazing Company, founded in 1885 by General Benjamin F. Butler of Lowell, Massachusetts. UL&G in turn is owned and run almost entirely by descendants of General Butler, making the Fort Union Ranch one of the largest and longest-owned properties continuously run by a single family in the United States. Today the ruins of Fort Union and approximately 700 acres of its surrounding land are preserved as a National Monument in an enclave within the ranch.
On the Fort Union are more than 800 head of cattle owned by the company. Calves are born in late winter and early spring and sold late in the year, with some of the heifer calves being kept to replenish the herd. In addition, the ranch receives income from selling permits to an outfitter for elk and pronghorn hunts in the fall, and from leasing transmission tower sites in the Turkey Mountains.
Though the primary business of the Fort Union Ranch remains raising and grazing beef cattle, in recent years the family has focused increasing efforts on preserving threatened resources and repairing the scars left on the landscape by the Fort’s military presence and its location on the Santa Fe Trail. Decades of continuous grazing by livestock—and now a changing climate with more severe drought cycles—have demanded that resource management become paramount.
Family members are now more directly involved in the ranch and in the local community than ever, and the company has employed range scientists to help guide rangeland health decisions. An emphasis on land stewardship has introduced new philosophies about land use and opportunities to reconsider the use of resources—be they cattle, water, fire, or human experts and workers. The ranch now hosts workshops in road maintenance, riparian restoration, and controlled burning; and ranch managers share a commitment to continuing to learn and to utilizing resources responsibly.
Along with its business and stewardship activities, the Fort Union Ranch has for several decades offered a rental program in which family members and friends are invited to stay at the ranch’s Marshall House and participate in a variety of ranch activities. Other tabs on this site provide abundant details on this program.