Long Lost: Conservation and Outdoor Recreation in Post-World War II America
In the late nineteenth century, Colorado had industrious admen (more generally known as boosters) working to promote what recreational activities the state could offer to bored young men from the eastern parts of the United States. Whether these men wanted to mine gold, climb mountains, or catch fish, they could do it in Colorado. These types of outdoor recreation helped lay the groundwork for the recreation industries of the twentieth century. However, many of these forms of recreation would go on to cause considerable damage to the various ecosystems and natural environments they were using. There are many examples of outdoor recreation and ecological damage in Colorado, but one of the longest-lasting cases of this began with fishing and the greenback cutthroat trout.
Colorado’s rivers were generally a significant factor pulling people towards the new state. Boosters often claimed that the waterways were full of gorgeous native trout perfect for anglers. For a while, these claims were true. However, as more and more anglers rushed to Colorado in the late 1800s in search of trout, the rivers and streams that were once swimming with fish had largely been depleted. Prospective anglers continued to arrive, but there was not enough native trout left to satisfy them all. Colorado had to find a new source of trout from the East, namely the brook trout, which they introduced in 1872 at great expense. Suddenly, the anglers had fish again. In terms of outdoor recreation, this was a perfect solution. In terms of conservation, it was anything but.
Aside from the general issues of conservation that arose from the overfishing of Colorado rivers and streams, the near extinction of the greenback cutthroat trout and the introduction of the brook trout created other ecological problems that still exist today. Scientists and members of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have been working in Colorado since the mid-twentieth century to revive the greenback cutthroat population and curb, if not entirely eradicate, the brook trout population. Thus far, their efforts have been almost entirely unsuccessful. In an odd but fortunate twist of fate, the only hope for the greenback cutthroat’s survival is the continuation of outdoor recreation, primarily through catch and release fishing as captured greenback cutthroats can return to their natural environments, rather than dying.
While this example of the greenback cutthroat trout emphasizes how interconnected conservation and outdoor recreation are, historical literature often lacks this connection. Other historians have extensively covered the growth of outdoor recreation in the United States. However, these historians often focus on only one type or element of outdoor recreation and how it, along with its techniques and influential figures evolved throughout history. One example of this is William M. Bueler’s Roof of the Rockies: A History of Colorado Mountaineering (1986). Bueler emphasizes the role of American Indians as trailblazers and mountaineers of these peaks. Later, when discussing early explorers of the Louisiana Purchase, Bueler includes Zebulon Pike. Beginning with Pike’s discovery of Pike’s Peak (though Pike famously did not ascend the peak as he believed it was impossible), Bueler traces a history of Colorado mountaineering that concludes with famous mountaineers of the late twentieth century. In this, he covers historic first ascents, geological surveys, and later, new routes and techniques for mountaineering that developed. Bueler, however, does not note the potential ecological impacts of these activities.
On a similar note, Annie Gilbert Coleman’s Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies (2004) focuses on the history and development of skiing in Colorado. The chapter “Call of the Mild: The New Ski Industry and Its Landscapes” begins with the end of World War II and the return of soldiers. Specifically, Coleman examines the return of the 10th Mountain Division, who trained in mountaineering, survival, and skiing. When these soldiers returned from overseas, their new skills and equipment became foundational to the expansion and eventual commercialization of skiing in Colorado. As with many other examples of historical literature, Coleman’s history of skiing and Bueler’s history of mountaineering are both narrowly focused and therefore fail to explore the environmental concerns caused by outdoor recreation.
In some instances, there are scientists (mostly ecologists) who have studied outdoor recreation. When studying outdoor recreation, most historians tend to either entirely ignore or only briefly acknowledge the conservation issues that outdoor recreation brings about. On the opposite side, ecologists often do not focus on the history and development of outdoor recreation, just the environmental problems that it caused. Looking at one essay from Wildlife and Recreationists: Coexistence Through Management and Research, (1995) “Outdoor Recreation: Historical and Anticipated Trends,” Curtis H. Flather and H. Ken Cordell focus on the general perception that outdoor recreation has comparatively little environmental impact. They emphasize that “Recreationists often degrade the land, water, and wildlife resources that support their activities by simplifying plant communities, increasing animal mortality, displacing and disturbing wildlife and distributing refuse.” However, as other sources reveal, some of these effects of outdoor recreation can be beneficial to the environment while simultaneously providing a form of entertainment.
There are some environmentalism or recreation books and articles that cover the history of environmentalism, outdoor entertainment, or other types of outdoor recreation. However, these texts cover, to some extent, the entire history of their subject (available at that time): including the notable events, persons, techniques, locations, and equipment involved. Other sources include ecological surveys that were focused more on environmental conditions rather than historical evidence. However, some attention should be paid to the history of the region, since it could reveal more about the ecological damage that occurred. Furthermore, even though I am examining a variety of outdoor recreation, my research begins with the expansion of outdoor recreation after the conclusion of World War II in 1945. Here, I focus specifically on the post-World War II era as emerging factors (such as the increased availability of automobiles) made outdoor recreation much more accessible than before.
I am combining the subjects of outdoor recreation and conservation to understand how they developed alongside each other in Colorado since the mid-twentieth century. This work is focused on primarily Colorado because it is one of the very few places in the United States where distinct types of outdoor recreation (such as skiing or fishing) can be performed year-round. Warm summers allow for camping, hiking, fishing, and more, while snowy winters encourage skiing. With this, it is important to also explore and recognize the damage that human activity and outdoor recreation have and continue to inflict upon Colorado’s natural environment, since the state’s outdoors are constantly in use. Outdoor recreation relies on a thriving environment to be successful. This requires conservation and preservation of the environment to maintain its health following substantial use. Historians and ecologists have generally treated their subjects as though they exist independently of one another, but that is not the case. When looking at conservation and recreation from a historical perspective, we can better understand the relationship between the two: increased outdoor recreation demands conservation efforts that in turn furthers outdoor recreation.
A Brief Overview of the Conservation Movement
The conservation movement in the United States has its origins in the nineteenth century alongside the development of transcendentalism, a movement that focused on the relationship between man and nature. According to Dorceta Taylor, early conservationist thought was defined by colonialism, nativism, and gender relations. Alongside transcendentalism, the movement evolved with romanticism, primitivism, frontierism, and business environmentalism. As conservationist thought developed, it did so with a concern for outdoor recreation. Taylor notes:
As conservation and preservationism spread, it became evident that it was no longer all right to wear hats festooned with birds or go hunting, birding, mountaineering, fishing, trapshooting, and so on without having a concomitant concern about the indiscriminate slaughter of wildlife, diminishing wildlife stocks, environmental degradation, and deforestation.
Outdoor recreation became more popular throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries but with this increasing popularity, people were also increasingly aware of the harm they were causing.
The expansion of the conservation movement also saw the arrival and development of various conservation-aligned organizations. Among these were the Sierra Club (founded in 1892 by John Muir), the Audubon Society (~1890s), and the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA, founded 1922). These organizations, alongside many others, were instrumental in the passage of a variety of acts throughout the twentieth century that contributed to the successes of the conservation movement and the protection of wildlife and natural environments throughout the United States. The IWLA was particularly unique in that it focused on outdoor recreation and conservation as well as education regarding these subjects. In its early days as an organization, the IWLA focused on curriculum-based education in the natural sciences. For example, records from a 1944 meeting in Chicago call for schools to correct their science curriculum to include conversations regarding conservation and the destructive use of natural resources. Additionally, by the 1980s, the IWLA created outdoor education kits that they advertised in popular recreation magazines, which they would send to anyone who requested them. Finally, as conservation continued into the twentieth century, the movement generally became more concerned with the development of renewable resources. It sought to take pressure off the non-renewable and preserve scenic wonders and ecological systems. Conservationists worked hard to establish national parks and open lands that would protect the land while also allowing it to be enjoyed. The American public soon flocked to those newly established public lands as post-war prosperity and car usage dramatically increased their accessibility.
An Increase in Outdoor Recreation
Following the end of World War II, families could easily access and participate in outdoor recreation. In many ways, the end of the war in 1945 signaled a general return to normalcy throughout the United States. Men were coming home and returning to work as women returned to the home, family, and other trappings of domesticity. By the 1950s, wages were increasing, as was the possibility for time off. With the reopening of national parks and increasing accessibility to the rest of the nation due to the family automobile and newly built freeways, families engaged in outdoor recreation at incredible rates. The family automobile was a significant factor in the return to and use of nature. However, it was only because of the improved post-war economy and increased wages that many were able to afford these family-sized vehicles in the first place. As Susan Sessions Rugh wrote in Are We There Yet?: The Golden Age of American Family Vacations (2008), “people went back to nature because nature was made accessible to them” albeit at significant environmental cost. The late 1940s saw a notable change in America’s landscape and in the lives of many Americans. These changes encouraged the growth of outdoor recreation, especially as the United States entered the Cold War.
Aside from this newly gained access to the outdoors, recreation also expanded as anti-communist, as red scare tensions grew throughout the 1950s. The end of World War II and the United States’ successes helped cast a patriotic aura across the nation, especially across the natural landscape. The patriotism associated with the American landscape continued to increase as Cold War tensions rose. Many Americans already considered the outdoors to be an ideal location for a family vacation. Furthermore, according to Susan Schrepfer in Nature’s Altars: Mountains, Gender, and American Environmentalism (2005) “[o]utdoor activities would permit Americans to remain true to the traditions of freedom without falling behind the Soviet Union.” In other words, as American families were camping and hiking, they were asserting pro-American, traditional values. Camping, specifically, was one form of outdoor recreation that allowed families to perform their newly idealized roles and promoted a sense of family togetherness. It is important to note that as these families engaged in outdoor recreation, environmental damage increased. Drivers with new cars were taking advantage of the thousands of miles of newly laid highways and filled the air with pollutants (unleaded gasoline was not introduced until the 1970s) and the campsites they used often destroyed significant parts of the natural environment. Facilities like campgrounds or ski lifts that other forms of outdoor recreation required would follow this trend of destruction as they were developed.
By the late 1950s, outdoor recreation was starting to boom. It became urgent for the government (who managed the public lands) to understand how their lands were being used as they planned for the future of outdoor recreation. In 1958 Conservation Director of the IWLA, Joe Penfold, helped establish the Outdoor Recreation Resource Review Commission (ORRRC). The main purpose of this commission was to study outdoor recreation trends and determine what the wants and needs of recreation would be in 1976, and again in 2000. When the IWLA published its first report in 1962, it eased the passage of conservation-based legislation and helped establish federal programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1964 and the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation in 1962.
Outdoor recreation continued to grow throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. The above table is from the 1982-1983 Nationwide Recreation Survey, which reflects the growth of distinct types of outdoor recreation across two decades. This survey was a continuation of the ORRRC from 1962 and the National Park Service used it to predict how the American public would respond to outdoor recreation as well as the types of things they wanted or needed from it. Much like its predecessor, the 1982-1983 survey would help guide the future of outdoor recreation and conservation.
The Origins of the IWLA and Changes to Environmentalism
When the IWLA was founded in 1922, it was named after the seventeenth-century English naturalist and avid participant in outdoor recreation, Izaak Walton. According to the IWLA’s website, “Walton understood that a healthy environment was essential to the outdoor recreation that he loved.” Walton’s emphasis on sustainability and a healthy environment would go on to become some of the founding principles of the IWLA as they navigated outdoor recreation. The organization generally tried to involve itself with a variety of outdoor recreation-based activities. However, based on many of their publications from the late twentieth century, most of their members were either anglers or hunters. Any conservation efforts the organization participated in would largely consider those two groups.
Moving into the latter half of the twentieth century, the IWLA underwent significant changes as the American public became more aware of and more involved in protecting the lands they relied on for recreation. This new environmental movement found its origins in the 1960s as organizations saw a massive influx of new members. However, many of these organizations were for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. It was not until the 1960s that they shifted focus to conservation. One example of this is the Sierra Club. By 1960 it had become an organization for conservation and many of its members joined because they had an interest in environmental sustainability. As many environmental issues became public and political, the general population became more aware of them. In 1962, for example, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, in which she condemned the overuse of pesticides. Then, in 1968, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Trails Systems Act passed before the first Earth Day in 1970. At the time, this level of modern environmentalism was the culmination of over a decade’s worth of growing environmental concern spurred by the dramatic increase in outdoor recreation. This helped create new generations of outdoor recreationists and environmental groups, while many organizations adapted their policies and principles for the new era of environmentalism.
The modern IWLA looks different today compared to its founding in 1922. Its membership expanded from 54 to 40,000 in almost a century and in 1970 the organization dedicated itself to wilderness protection, which they consider essential to the continuous development of outdoor recreation. While the organization does often refer to and support outdoor recreation in its broadest sense, they have largely addressed issues across the United States regarding fishing and hunting in much more depth than hiking or mountaineering.
Regulating Hunting and Fishing
The IWLA’s records and publications from the late 1970s and early 1980s reflect the organization’s preoccupations with controlling the hunting community. The IWLA and many other institutions considered regulated sport hunting to be an essential element of wildlife management and conservation. One of the biggest concerns of wildlife management at this time was that unmanaged wildlife populations across the United States would continue to grow to the point that their environment could not support them. Sport hunting was one of the easiest ways in which this could be managed as hunters actively removed animals from the environment. For example, if wildlife populations grew too big, diseases would spread rampantly or, they could exceed their habitat’s carrying capacity and run out of food. Even though there were ecologists (Flather and Cordell) who were concerned that outdoor recreation, in this case, hunting, would increase animal mortality, information from the Wildlife Management Institute and the IWLA published in 1971 in association with the International Association of Game, Fish and Conservation Commissioners showed that hunting could be beneficial at controlled levels and often kept wildlife populations from growing out of control. Furthermore, the Wildlife Management Institute also wrote that “None of the suggestions advanced by protectionists as alternatives to sport hunting in its relationship to wildlife management [have] much practicality.” Ecologists were s that hunters would overhunt the wildlife populations, leading to mass ecological damage. Even though hunters often caused other environmental problems, it was because of them that wildlife populations did not spiral out of control.
One element that ecologists were concerned with was the human waste left behind. Careless hunters often caused extreme damage to wildlife populations and habitats. In December of 1974, the IWLA published an advertisement in The Wall Street Journal. This advertisement featured an image of a mallard duck that had been poisoned and then starved as a result of the lead bullets that hunters shot into their habitats. In this instance, the abandoned bullets were exceptionally dangerous to wildlife; the advertisement itself stated that there were three million waterfowl tortured and killed each year because of the forgotten lead. Even though this advertisement was part of a greater push by the IWLA to replace lead bullets with ones made of steel or aluminum, any bullets could still be dangerous to wildlife habitats. As with the lead bullets, wildlife could unintentionally consume and choke on bullets made with different metals. The only apparent difference is that wildlife would not suffer from lead poisoning if they consumed a non-lead bullet. Even though the IWLA worked extensively with the hunting community, they were limited in terms of regulation. They encouraged hunters to change their behaviors and equipment but had no way to enforce their suggestions.
In 1992, the IWLA supported the International Conference on Improving Hunter Compliance with Wildlife Laws. This conference generally focused on issues of management, enforcement, and education. One of the major resolutions from the 1978 National Conference on Outdoor Ethics encouraged hunters to be more careful and compliant in their actions: “If we cannot control our own activities, others will do the job for us. They will do that job not by regulating hunters, but by stopping hunting.” If hunters did not improve their behaviors, then eventually they would not be able to hunt at all.
By the mid-1970s, Many Americans were opposed to hunting. One survey conducted in 1974 with a Michigan-based anti-hunting organization found that 94% of its members disapproved of sport hunting. However, 28% of this group had changed their opinions about hunting at some point. In other words, they were not always strongly opposed to hunting. One of the most frequent responses in this survey was “the development of an appreciation for aesthetic and existence values of wildlife” alongside a change in moral and ethical values. There were already ecological opponents to hunting at this time who were trying to put an end to sport hunting. If hunters proved unable to control themselves, then members of the IWLA were afraid that eventually they would not be allowed to hunt at all. Hunters’ behavior would prove to be an ongoing challenge for the IWLA.
One of the other challenges that hunters faced was the gradual closure of land to hunting and other forms of outdoor recreation. Suburban sprawl and new housing or shopping developments were not only occupying land but destroying it and the ecological systems therein. Hunters either had to use public land—which was generally too crowded—or get permission from landowners to hunt on their private land. However, poor hunter behavior was making it increasingly difficult for hunters to use private land, as trespassing, theft, and vandalism encouraged private landowners to close their land to all hunters. This forced hunters onto public lands that other hunters were already using. The addition of more hunters could lead to significant losses of wildlife populations, as well as other environmental damages.
The IWLA also paid significant attention to fishing as anglers comprised a sizable portion of the league’s overall membership. In general, one of their biggest concerns was the overall quality of water, especially as the demand for fishing increased. The IWLA prioritized water quality since its founding in 1922. The first words of their member pledge “to strive for the purity of water” indicate this. Similar to some of the issues they were facing with hunters, anglers were also causing significant problems for the environment and resources they relied on. Anglers were littering and crowding the waterways, decreasing the water quality, catching prohibited species of fish, and fish were often damaged by barbs or overly exhausted. Many of these issues came up at the 1987 International Conference on Outdoor Ethics. The league worked hard to promote clean waterways, which anglers took advantage of.
One of the biggest challenges posed to Colorado conservation was overfishing. During the second half of the twentieth century, Colorado conservationists struggled to reintroduce the greenback cutthroat trout to the state’s waterways. This native species of trout suffered as anglers over-fished in the late nineteenth century and the rivers had been restocked with Eastern trout, most notably the brook trout. For many years Colorado anglers relied heavily on fisheries to maintain the rivers’ stock of that trout, even with the introduction of the brook trout, anglers still depleted waterways at an alarming rate. In an effort to reverse the effects of overfishing the United States Fish Commission (USFC) began using Trappers Lake in the White River National Forest (near Meeker, Colorado) in 1914 to reintroduce the greenback cutthroat. Many of these early attempts at reintroduction were largely unsuccessful: the brook trout became accustomed to Colorado streams and there were too many of them for the greenback cutthroat to successfully integrate and rebuild its population. By 1937, the fish was thought to be extinct.
Fortunately, in the 1950s a Colorado scientist found several wild groups of the greenback cutthroat in the Arkansas and South Platte River basins. From here, attempts to reintroduce the trout continued. In 1958, the USFC picked a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Forest Canyon and drained it. In draining the lake, they hoped to kill enough brook trout that the greenback cutthroat could be successfully reintroduced by late 1958 and early 1959. Unfortunately, it was difficult to identify the greenback cutthroat, as years of cohabitation with rainbow trout created hybrids (cutbow trout). Furthermore, it was difficult to tell without extensive genetic testing which fish were truly greenback cutthroats.
Even though it was outdoor recreation that had led to the near extinction of the greenback cutthroat in the first place, it was also the only hope to bring the fish back. At this point, catch and release fishing had been gaining traction in the United States. With the declaration of the greenback cutthroat as an endangered species following the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, this fishing practice made its way to Colorado as a potential tool for conservation. However, when it was first introduced, the intention was to catch and release the greenback and catch and kill the brook trout, though this did not really function as planned. Anglers instead were catching, possibly photographing, and releasing any fish they found. Despite this, the catch and release system seems to be working—even into the twenty-first century. Catch and release fishing was the beginning of an ecological approach to fishing. Tourism and outdoor recreation are now the only hope to bring the greenback cutthroat back, even if the brook trout is here to stay.
Further Damage: Camping, Skiing, and Mountaineering
As outdoor recreation became more popular, many ecologists noticed the damage that people caused as they used the newly available recreation services. Outdoor recreation in the 1950s and beyond was thought to promote social and family stability, and the mountains and forests were seen as ideal stages to perform those social and familial rituals. Camping became the ideal way for vacationing families to “perform togetherness.” However, the demands of this type and level of outdoor recreation required significant ecological damage as environments were destroyed to create new recreation facilities. According to Phoebe S.K. Young, the United States Forest Service (USFS) and National Park Service were overwhelmed by the new demand for camping. While the number of USFS campers had been around 1.1 million in 1943, by 1950, there were 3.9 million. In the 1960s, their campgrounds were bursting with over 10 million campers.
One of the most environmentally destructive forms of outdoor recreation is camping. To have campgrounds, developers used clearcutting to remove large sections of forests. Even though the IWLA did not focus its conservation efforts on camping specifically, clearcutting was one consequence that they were extremely concerned about. In most cases, however, the use of clearcutting became abusive which can negatively impact forest-dependent wildlife populations (impacting hunting) and destabilize the forest’s ecological balance. Clearcutting can also destroy a forest’s natural defenses against parasites, meaning they must be sprayed with pesticides (that further harm wildlife) and if the trees do regrow, the regrowth is often uneven. While the IWLA was concerned with clearcutting, it was one of the ways that land would be cleared for camper and consumer use. There are other forms of outdoor recreation that similarly rely on clearcutting, but none are quite as destructive or demanding as campgrounds.
As public demand for outdoor recreation increased, the overall use of public land and recreation-related facilities increased tremendously. Public agencies like the USFS faced an overwhelming number of visitors and it became clear that they needed more facilities, specifically more campgrounds. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the USFS and National Park Service implemented major infrastructure plans (Operation Outdoors and Mission 66) and worked to increase the number of available campsites from 41,000 to 125,000 nationwide. As Rugh noted, “people went back to nature because nature was made more accessible to them” and, with campgrounds, this accessibility was only increasing. In the case of camping, whether campers were using tents or RV’s, camping allowed them to be closer to and interact with nature much more than they had ever been able to.
Unfortunately, as camping continued in parks and forests across Colorado, the demand for outdoor recreation increased as visitors complained about the poor accommodations and lack of space. According to Rugh,“Visitors grounded their complaints in the expectation that these were their parks, and that as American citizens, they were entitled to enjoy them in the way they had expected.” Rugh elaborates: “Tourists saw themselves as consumers of park services, and they expected a return on their fees and on the investment they made in time and effort to arrive at the park.” The more that tourists demanded, the more natural systems and structures would suffer. According to one report from the International Mountain Society, campsite ecosystems were comparatively more damaged than their wild counterparts: on picnicking and back-country campsites, 30% of the trees were damaged, plant cover and variation were significantly lower, and erosion was much higher. On car camping sites (RVs), up to 95% of the trees were damaged, with similarly damaged soil and plant cover. Even beyond the damage attributed to the creation of these facilities, camping itself proved detrimental to the environmental systems.
Skiing, like camping, relied on clearcutting to make space for the chair lifts, ski trails, and lodges. Skiing largely gained popularity in Colorado after the end of World War II due to the return and efforts of the United States Army’s 10th Light Infantry Division (later referred to as the 10th Mountain Division). Members of the 10th Mountain Division returned to Colorado as trained skiers. The members of this division helped develop Colorado’s ski industry and would go on to establish the Aspen Skiing Corporation, Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Ski Broadmoor, and many other ski areas across the state. Others would also work for the state’s ski schools and patrols. Skiing was further popularized by the availability of cheap army surplus ski equipment and soon people were flocking to the mountains. As Coleman mentions in Ski Style: “Relieved of wartime stress and optimistic about good times ahead, Americans who had never worn skis traveled to the mountains for vacation and took up the sport.” With cheaply available equipment and newly created ski areas, skiing became accessible in a way that it had never been before and quickly gained popularity.
As skiing became more popular in Colorado, it quickly became obvious that the state would need designated locations to facilitate the newly popularized sport. However, skiing needed large sections of cleared land for ski runs/trails and for ski lifts. Many ski destinations also featured large resorts that required even more cleared land. These new ski resorts relied on clearcutting to create the treeless land they needed. Many of these resorts, like Arapahoe Basin and Winter Park, still exist, though there are examples of others that generally failed. One of these was in the Hidden Valley region of Rocky Mountain National Park. The location itself was near Trail Ridge Road and boosters in the area would campaign desperately for years to transform the land into a ski area, especially as the National Park Service began plowing the road in the 1930s. However, since the land was part of Rocky Mountain National Park, it took years for the National Park Service to approve the construction of a ski area so close to the mountain road.
The Hidden Valley Ski Area opened in 1955, though many people were opposed to it. As one Granby resident, Chester McQueery, wrote, the new ski area “betrayed the inherent principles of the National Park System and denied future generations a heritage which many men had long worked to preserve.” Fortunately for McQueery, all evidence of the ski resort was removed from the national park by 2004, and the ski area proved to be a complete failure, especially as more popular ski resorts opened throughout the 1950s and 1960s. By the time the Hidden Valley Ski Area removed its ski lifts and ended operations in 1991, the ski area had been almost completely overrun by other resorts. The abandoned land returned to the National Park Service, although there are still abandoned ski runs that backcountry skiiers use.
Aside from the removal of large sections of forests, the development of ski areas also had a significant impact on the surrounding wildlife, though not always in a negative way. One Vail study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management in 2004 found that the interior areas of ski runs developed over 30 years ago do not support the populations of dominant small mammals, instead, they thrive more in the remaining forests. However, there are also cases in this study where it seems as though the (typically lower) populations of other small mammals may have increased because of the ski runs. The study ends by positing that further development of ski runs may be beneficial to encouraging biodiversity in the Rocky Mountains. Skiing generally requires the construction of lifts, runs, and lodges in order to make the sport accessible. Ski areas tend to take up a substantial portion of available mountain space, not only destroying the natural environment but also inviting further destruction as popularity and the demand for more facilities increased. However, that does not appear to always be entirely detrimental, as it can give varied species of animals more space to develop and grow despite the destruction.
The members of the 10th Mountain Division also trained in mountaineering and, while they were not as influential in establishing that sport in Colorado as they were with skiing, mountaineering became a significant element of Colorado’s outdoor recreation. Furthermore, it is comparatively less destructive than skiing as the sport itself does not require any clearing of land or construction of facilities. Even before World War II, mountaineering (albeit in various forms) was a popular and essential activity in the exploration and survey of the state. By the time the outdoor recreation rush began in the 1950s, mountaineers had better equipment and could attempt more difficult ascents. As Bueler wrote, “during the 1950s, there was an explosion of growth in technical climbing, just as there was in skiing, climbing the peaks, and every other aspect of outdoor activity in Colorado.” Mountaineering became more popular as innovative climbers improved their skills and equipment.
One reason why mountaineers of the late twentieth century were so interested in first ascents—either of peaks or of routes—was the knowledge that they would likely be the first people to ever see and interact with that part of the natural world. It is also possible that, as Bueler notes, many climbed these peaks simply because they were there. However, there are also significant conservation issues attached to that feeling of “firstness” as well as to other elements of mountaineering. Climbing pitons could cause severe environmental damage, even after John Salathé made improvements to their design and materials in 1945. On some ascents, the rocks were so eroded that hammering a piton into them could cause entire chunks of earth and stone to crumble away, damaging the preexisting ecosystems. In addition, rock climbing and mountaineering have long had significant impacts on cliff-face vegetation. As Kathryn Lynne Kuntz and Douglas W. Larson note in their study “Influences of Microhabitat Constraints and Rock-Climbing Disturbance on Cliff-Face Vegetation Communities,” (2006) the rise in popularity of rock climbing is exposing isolated communities and ecosystems to an increasing level of disturbances and damages. Kuntz and Larson found that vascular plant communities were nearly twice as rich along non-climbed cliff faces than along climbed ones, though the richness of lichen communities was essentially identical between those unclimbed and climbed cliff faces. While Kuntz and Larson conducted this study along the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, Canada, if climbing caused damages to the vegetation there, then it almost certainly caused damage to the vegetation in Colorado. When mountaineers like Kamps and Rearick, and many others throughout Colorado history climb a mountain or new route for the first time, they expose a previously isolated ecosystem to new levels of damage and destruction. In many cases, mountaineers cause subsequent environmental damage as they attempt their own ascents.
One of the biggest challenges when studying outdoor recreation is simultaneously paying attention to how outdoor recreation can impact the environment. While recreation and environmentalism seem to be distinct areas of study, there are clear ways in which they collide and many instances wherein it is important to understand one in order to understand the other. When looking at outdoor recreation, it becomes impossible to separate its history from that of conservation. For example, practices like catch and release fishing or the phrase “take only memories, leave only footsteps,” are reflections of more recent changes in outdoor recreation that connect to conservation. In many instances, these have also generally become the standard for diverse types of outdoor recreation. Things like the first ascent of “The Diamond” that were historically significant then become ecologically significant and vice versa; the Endangered Species Act that was ecologically significant in 1973 is historically significant now. These are also things that have a striking impact in Colorado history and allowed for the expansion of both conservation and outdoor recreation into the twenty-first century and beyond.
Outdoor recreation and the natural environment were essential parts of many people’s lives throughout the post-war period. Many family vacations were defined by the outdoor environment and as such, the outdoors became a significant part of people’s lives. For these people, the natural environment has special value, and they wish to protect it. Even though overuse and mismanagement caused much of the environmental damage in Colorado’s history, it is the continued interest in outdoor recreation that allows for the success of modern education and conservation efforts. Recreation and conservation are linked, and as the allure of outdoor recreation continues to draw people to natural spaces across the United States, they will become increasingly intertwined.
 Jerry J. Frank, Making Rocky Mountain National Park: The Environmental History of an American Treasure (Lawrence, KA: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2013), pg. 144-45.
 Jerry J. Frank, Making Rocky Mountain National Park: The Environmental History of an American Treasure (Lawrence, KA: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2013), pg. 168.
 Annie Gilbert Coleman, Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies (Lawrence, KA: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2004), pg. 120.
 Richard L. Knight and Kevin Gutzwiller, eds., Wildlife and Recreationists: Coexistence Through Management and Research (Washington DC: Island Press, 1995), pg. 3.
 Dorceta E. Taylor, The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), pg. 31.
 IWLA Outdoor Ethics Kits, CONS41, The Izaak Walton League of American Collection, Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO.
 John V. Krutilla, “Balancing Extractive Industries with Wildlife Habitat,” CONS41, box 2, Izaak Walton League of America Collection, Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO.
 Susan R. Schrepfer, Nature’s Altars: Mountains, Gender, and American Environmentalism (Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas, 2005), pg. 181.
 Susan R. Schrepfer, Nature’s Altars: Mountains, Gender, and American Environmentalism (Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas, 2005), pg. 193.
 Brent A. Olson, “Paper Trails: The Outdoor Recreation Resource Review Commission and the Rationalization of Recreational Resources,” Geoforum 41, no. 3 (May 1, 2010): 447–56, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2009.11.014.
 Merle J. Van Horne, Laura B. Swzak, and Sharon A. Randall, 1982-1983 Nationwide Recreation Survey, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1986. https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/trends/nsre-directory/survey-82.html, pg. 19.
 “Who Was Izaak Walton,” Izaak Walton League of America (Izaak Walton League of America), accessed October 27, 2021, https://www.iwla.org/about-us/izaak-walton.
 CONS41, The Izaak Walton League of American Collection, Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO.
 Schrepfer, Nature’s Altars, pg. 221.
 Jonathan H. Adler, Environmentalism at the Crossroads: Green Activism in America (Capital Research Center, 1995).
 An informational pamphlet from various American hunting associations, 1971, CONS41, The Izaak Walton League of American Collection, Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO.
This pamphlet has information from many different hunting and wildlife associations, in this instance I am only referring to the pages by the Wildlife Management Institute and the IWLA.
 “Hunting vs. Habitat,” CONS41, The Izaak Walton League of American Collection, Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO.
Ecologists also worried about habitat destruction, though wildlife scientists did not consider hunting to be a part of this.
 Richard L. Knight and Kevin Gutzwiller, eds., Wildlife and Recreationists: Coexistence Through Management and Research (Washington DC: Island Press, 1995), pg. 3.
 Advertisement published by the IWLA in The Wall Street Journal, December 1974, CONS41, The Izaak Walton League of American Collection, Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO.
 Quote from a flyer discussing the upcoming conference, 1987, CONS41, The Izaak Walton League of American Collection, Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO.
 William W. Shaw, “A Survey of Hunting Opponents,” Wildlife Society Bulletin (1973-2006) 5, no. 1 (1977): 20.
 “Hunter/Landowner Relations,” CONS41, The Izaak Walton League of American Collection, Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO.
 “Fishing,” CONS41, The Izaak Walton League of American Collection, Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO.
 Patrick Trotter, Cutthroat: Native Trout of the West (Berkley, CA: University of California Press, 2008).
 Tina Mitchell, “The Natural World: The Greenback Cutthroat,” Colorado Central Magazine, November 1, 2016, https://coloradocentralmagazine.com/the-natural-world-the-greenback-cutthroat/.
Jerry J. Frank, Making Rocky Mountain National Park: The Environmental History of an American Treasure (Lawrence, KA: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2013), pg. 163).
 Jerry J. Frank, Making Rocky Mountain National Park: The Environmental History of an American Treasure (Lawrence, KA: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2013), pg. 165, 168-69.
 Phoebe S. K. Young, Camping Grounds Public Nature in American Life from the Civil War to the Occupy Movement (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2021), pg. 198-99.
 “Abusive Clearcutting Harms Wildlife,” CONS41, The Izaak Walton League of American Collection, Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO.
Clearcutting refers to the removal of all standing timber from a section of land and when restricted, can be beneficial to wildlife.
 “Abusive Clearcutting Harms Wildlife,” CONS41, The Izaak Walton League of American Collection, Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO.
 Phoebe S. K. Young, Camping Grounds Public Nature in American Life from the Civil War to the Occupy Movement (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2021), pg. 198.
 Alan H. Taylor, “Impacts on Back-Country, Picnic, and Car Camping Sites in the Colorado Front Range, U.S.A.,” Mountain Research and Development 8, no. 4 (1988): 351–54, https://doi.org/10.2307/3673558.
 Annie Gilbert Coleman, Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies (Lawrence, KA: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2004), pg. 120.
 Jerry J. Frank, Making Rocky Mountain National Park: The Environmental History of an American Treasure (Lawrence, KA: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2013), pg. 194-95, 201.
 Gillian L. Hadley and Kenneth R. Wilson, “Patterns of Density and Survival in Small Mammals in Ski Runs and Adjacent Forest Patches,” The Journal of Wildlife Management 68, no. 2 (2004): 288–98.
 William M. Bueler, Roof of the Rockies: A History of Colorado Mountaineering (Golden, CO: The Colorado Mountain Club Press, 1986).
 William M. Bueler, Roof of the Rockies: A History of Colorado Mountaineering (Golden, CO: The Colorado Mountain Club Press, 1986), pg. 106.
 Bueler, Roof of the Rockies: A History of Colorado Mountaineering, pg. 6.
 Allan Steck, “John Salathé, 1899-1993,” American Alpine Club (AAC Publications, 1994), http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12199432100/John-Salath-1899-1993.
 Kathryn Lynne Kuntz and Douglas W. Larson, “Influences of Microhabitat Constraints and Rock-Climbing Disturbance on Cliff-Face Vegetation Communities,” Conservation Biology 20, no. 3 (2006): 821.
 Kathryn Lynne Kuntz and Douglas W. Larson, “Influences of Microhabitat Constraints and Rock-Climbing Disturbance on Cliff-Face Vegetation Communities,” Conservation Biology 20, no. 3 (2006): 826.
Adler, Jonathan H. Environmentalism at the Crossroads: Green Activism in America. Capital Research Center, 1995.
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “Resolution 1971-13-27 National Hunting and Fishing Day.” 1971. https://core.ac.uk/reader/228473160.
Benson, Jack A. “Skiing at Camp Hale: Mountain Troops during World War II.” The Western Historical Quarterly 15, no. 2 (1984): 163–74. https://doi.org/10.2307/968515.
Bueler, William M. Roof of the Rockies: A History of Colorado Mountaineering. Golden, CO: The Colorado Mountain Club Press, 1986.
Coleman, Annie Gilbert. Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies. Lawrence, KA: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2004.
Ferriss, Abbott L., Betty C. Churchill, Charles H. Proctor, and Lois E.H. Zazove. ORRRC Study Report 19: National Recreation Survey. Washington, D.C., 1962. https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/trends/nsre-directory/survey.html.
Frank, Jerry J. Making Rocky Mountain National Park: The Environmental History of an American Treasure. Lawrence, KA: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2013.
Hadley, Gillian L., and Kenneth R. Wilson. “Patterns of Density and Survival in Small Mammals in Ski Runs and Adjacent Forest Patches.” The Journal of Wildlife Management 68, no. 2 (2004): 288–98. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3803305.
Izaak Walton League of America. Education in Conservation of Our Natural Resources. Chicago, 1944. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009060047.
Izaak Walton Leage of America Collections. CONS41. Conservation Collection. Denver Public Library Special Collections and Archives. Denver Public Library. Denver, CO. Visited October 12, 2021.
Jones, Chris. Climbing in North America. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1976.
Kedrowski, Jon J. “Determining the Relative Annual Mountain Climbing Frequency on Colorado’s 14,000-Foot Peaks.” Mountain Research and Development 29, no. 1 (2009): 82–92. http://www.jstor.org/stable/mounresedeve.29.1.82.
Knight, Richard L., and Kevin Gutzwiller, eds. Wildlife and Recreationists: Coexistence Through Management and Research. Washington DC: Island Press, 1995.
Kuntz, Kathryn Lynne, and Douglas W. Larson. “Influences of Microhabitat Constraints and Rock-Climbing Disturbance on Cliff-Face Vegetation Communities.” Conservation Biology 20, no. 3 (2006): 821–32. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3879251.
Olson, Brent A. “Paper Trails: The Outdoor Recreation Resource Review Commission and the Rationalization of Recreational Resources.” Geoforum 41, no. 3 (May 1, 2010): 447–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2009.11.014.
Palmer, Tim. Field Guide to Rivers of the Rocky Mountains. Guilford, CT: FalconGuides, 2021.
Rearick, David. “The First Ascent of The Diamond, East Face of Longs Peak.” In Sierra Club. American Alpine Club. Accessed November 3, 2021. http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12196129700/The-First-Ascent-of-the-Diamond-East-Face-of-Longs-Peak.
Rugh, Susan Sessions. Are We There Yet?: The Golden Age of American Family Vacations. Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas, 2008.
Schrepfer, Susan R. Nature’s Altars: Mountains, Gender, and American Environmentalism. Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas, 2005.
Stebbins, Robert C. “Off-Road Vehicles and the Fragile Desert.” The American Biology Teacher 36, no. 4 (1974): 203–20. https://doi.org/10.2307/4444747.
Shaw, William W. “A Survey of Hunting Opponents.” Wildlife Society Bulletin (1973-2006) 5, no. 1 (1977): 19–24.
Steck, Allan. “John Salathé, 1899-1993.” American Alpine Club. AAC Publications, 1994. http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12199432100/John-Salath-1899-1993.
Taylor, Dorceta E. The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.
Taylor, Alan H. “Impacts on Back-Country, Picnic, and Car Camping Sites in the Colorado Front Range, U.S.A.” Mountain Research and Development 8, no. 4 (1988): 351–54. https://doi.org/10.2307/3673558.
Van Horne, Merle J., Laura B. Swzak, and Sharon A. Randall. 1982-1983 Nationwide Recreation Survey. United States Department of the Interior. National Park Service, 1986. https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/trends/nsre-directory/survey-82.html.
“Who Was Izaak Walton.” Izaak Walton League of America. Izaak Walton League of America. Accessed October 27, 2021. https://www.iwla.org/about-us/izaak-walton.
Young, Phoebe S.K. Camping Grounds: Public Nature in American Life from the Civil War to the Occupy Movement. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2021.