Mac McGoldrick and Laura Booth talk about helping the land heal after a year of construction and forestry projects. Mac is SMC’s Senior Director of Master Planning and Project Management, and Laura joined his team this spring as the new Land Steward.
First of all, welcome to SMC, Laura! Would you mind sharing what made you want to live and work here?
Laura: I feel all the work I’ve been doing up until now has led me to this point. It’s really exciting to have a vision and do such important work towards our goals! It’s thrilling to be a part of something that has so much potential.
How did it feel for you both the first time you stepped foot onto the land here at SMC?
Laura: Several years ago I came to SMC just for the day to see the Stupa. It was shocking to see such a massive and incredible Stupa hidden away in the middle of the mountains, not that far from Fort Collins. Being at the Stupa was so uplifting. It’s very beautiful and serene out here, and you can easily tell how much people care about this place.
Mac: I came to Shambhala Mountain Center for the first time 20 years ago, in 1999. My wife and I love the terrain of Red Feather Lakes. I think in part because our love for this landscape, and in part because of being a long-time Buddhist practitioner, there was an energy here that I resonated with.
Mac, you were very involved in the wastewater collection system project which SMC completed last fall. Can you tell us about that, and some of the other changes the land has seen recently?
Mac: SMC has made a commitment to make sure that everything that we do on the land creates resiliency, health and capacity for regeneration.
One of the things that we did was directly for the environment—building the wastewater collection system to return clean water to the Poudre Valley Watershed. That project also gave us a tremendous opportunity to take the 6.4 acres that we’ve disturbed in the installation to do some very intentional planning, and return areas to their natural state.
We also did a conservation forestry project to return the forest to a better state of health, increasing habitat and understory growth, since a healthy forest includes the entire ecosystem in the area.
Laura, now that you’ve arrived, what projects are you excited about?
Laura: One focus of mine is improving the downtown area for people’s health, happiness, and overall well-being and making it a more enjoyable and comfortable space for people to use. I’m particularly excited about improving the outdoor eating areas. I’ve been working on planning an SMC Staff Earth Day land cleanup event to kick off the season. I’m eager to see the community come together for this common goal and to see how much we can accomplish!
Both of your jobs involve caring for the land. How is land stewardship unique at SMC?
Mac: We have 50 years of people loving & visiting the land, and want to honor and build off that legacy. People are coming here for a contemplative experience, and we want the land to reflect that.
We recognize that the built and natural environment are very much united, and people are definitely a part of the land here. As we craft practical steps to live into our view of land stewardship we’re driven by principles of service, aligned with nature, to create abundance while working in wholes rather than in parts. Understanding this larger, more complicated picture, will ensure that SMC is positioned for health, capacity, and resiliency—beyond just the environment, but also in our community.
Laura: Our ultimate goal is restoring the land to its natural state while improving its health and resiliency. We’re focusing on maintaining native plants, eliminating invasive species, improving wildlife habitat, and improving forest health. And, of course, SMC is not only the land, but the community too. I’m ready and incredibly excited to apply my education, experience, skills, and ideas to an organization where I can make a great impact not only on rehabilitating, maintaining, and caring for the land—but also on the people who care so deeply for and enjoy the many benefits this land has to offer.
It’s quite simple: we do what we can to keep a healthy, native, and natural environment here, and we are rewarded by the abundance of a thriving ecosystem. You leave feeling tranquil, grounded, peaceful, connected, and relaxed. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty so we can all start seeing amazing results and be able to enjoy the benefits of it.
About the Authors
Mac McGoldrick is the Senior Director of Master Planning & Project Management at SMC. Hired in 2017 Mac helped with the wastewater collection system installation and has overseen a number of capital projects on the land, including a large-scale conservation forestry project. Prior to joining the team at SMC, Mac was the Director of Operations and a research anthropologist for the Energy Institute at Colorado State University – a campus-wide interdisciplinary clean energy research program.
Originally from Tennessee, Laura Booth studied Natural Resource Management and Wildlife and Fisheries Biology at Clemson University in South Carolina. She spent the majority of her professional career after graduating from Clemson University in Colorado gaining a wide range of experience all over the front range for organizations such as: Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, and the City of Colorado Springs-parks department. Laura’s experience includes: botany identification and surveys, migratory bird and waterfowl identification/counts/research/surveys, ecological surveys, interpretative programs to adults and kids, park ranger, vegetation restoration, invasive species identification/mapping/surveys/management, raptor identification and rehabilitation, and so much more!