Western History / Genealogy > The Conservation Collection

The Conservation Collection

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"The Conservation Library Center, Denver Public Library, Denver, is fast becoming an important depository..."
Roderick Nash
Wilderness and the American Mind, 1967

Over the past forty years, the Denver Public Library's Conservation Collection has become a major archive of environmental history. Over 2,500 linear feet of manuscript material, books, serials and photographs document critical aspects of the conservation movement in 20th century United States. Organizations such as The Wilderness Society, Izaak Walton League of America, American Bison Society, American Rivers, and American Farmland Trust have designated the Denver Public Library as the official repository for their records. The papers of individuals also constitute the Collection. Letters, memos, and writings of prominent preservationists, such as Aldo Leopold, Olaus Murie, Ira Gabrielson and Howard Zahniser are numerous. Other papers include those of such environmentalists as Arthur Carhart, Enos Mills, William Vogt, Wild Horse Annie (Velma Johnston), Charles Lathrop Pack, George Laycock, and Lois Crisler.

Arthur Carhart

The collection was established in 1960 out of the private holdings of conservationist Arthur H. Carhart. He was the first landscape architect/recreational engineer hired by the U.S. Forest Service (Denver District, 1919); a writer of environmentally-themed pulp fiction novels; a writer of serious books and articles on forest health and management; and forever and always, an activist. Throughout his life, Carhart created a wide network of environmental compatriots, and it was the works of these activists, as well as his own, that served as the seed of today's Conservation Collection.

The book Collecting Nature: The American Environmental Movement and The Conservation Library, (University of Kansas Press, 2001), by Andrew Kirk, tells the history of this valued collection.


The Denver Public Library continues to acquire conservation materials. Important acquisitions since the collection's founding have included: Hal Harrison's ornithological field notes and nature articles, the records of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the records of the Alaska Coalition, and the papers of Harry Crandell, John F. Seiberling, Albert Henson and others who were notable actors in the passage and implementation of the Alaska Lands Act.

The Conservation Collection is now a nationally recognized research center for environmental history. Many writers use the archive in the creation of valuable books on the American environment. Some examples are:

Wilderness and the American Mind, Roderick Nash (1967)

A Symbol of Wilderness: Echo Park and the American Conservation Movement, Mark W. T. Harvey (1994)

Guardians of the Parks: A History of the of the National Parks and Conservation Association, John C. Miles (1995)

Devil's Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth Century American West, Hal Rothman (1998)

The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750-1920, Andrew Isenberg (2000)

In the Grand Tetons


The following list is a sample of the archives being preserved by the Denver Public Library. Staff are readily available to answer questions about the specific contents of each and about the other manuscripts not listed.

The Alaska Coalition [1973-1980]
21 boxes.
Organizational Records
Aldo Leopold [1928-1971]
1 box.
A Sand County Almanac, illustrator's manuscript draft. Game survey bulletins written for the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, 1928-1930. Correspondence from Dr. Estella B. Leopold.
American Association for Conservation Information [1940s - 1960s]
4 boxes.
Established in 1938 to provide conservation information programs throughout North America.
American Bison Society [1900s-1930s]
12 boxes.
Organizational Records
American Farmland Trust [1980 to current]
50 boxes.
Organizational Records
American Motors Conservation Awards [1953-1978]
40 boxes.
Program that awarded the unsung heroes of conservation.
American Rivers [1968-2000]
91 boxes.
Organizational Records
Hugh H. Bennett [1921-1959]
7 boxes.
Speeches and articles by the "Father of Soil Conservation."
Arthur Carhart [1918-1970]
39 boxes.
Carhart's experiences as a recreation engineer in the U.S. Forest Service, as a writer, and as an activist.
Louis G. Carpenter [1892-1935]
13 boxes.
State engineer involved in Colorado water issues.
Edward Parley Cliff [1930s-1970s]
2 boxes.
Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, 1962-1972. Forest and timber management issues.
Lois Crisler [1940s-1950s]
1 box.
Diaries and field books of Arctic Wild author.
Harry Ben Crandell [1950s-1980s]
35 boxes.
Wildlife refuges, The Wilderness Society, and the Alaska Lands Act.
Colorado Environmental Coalition [1960s-1990s]
57 boxes.
Organizational Records
Colorado Wildlife Federation

20 boxes.
Organizational Records
Rosalie Edge [1930s-1940s]
4 boxes.
Edge's Emergency Conservation Committee, early Audubon Society, preservation of Kings Canyon and Olympic National Park.
Peter Farb [1950s-1960s]
12 boxes.
Author and conservationist, concerned with soil conservation and wildlife issues.
Annette Flugger [1930s-1960s]
8 boxes.
The Pan American Union.
Ira Gabrielson [1940s-1970s]
15 boxes.
First director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and past president of the Wildlife Management Institute.
Izaak Walton League of America [1950s-1990s]
73 boxes.
Organizational Records
George Laycock [1960s-1990s]
11 boxes.
Freelance writer, concerned with environmental policy in Alaska and Hawaii.
Mineral Policy Center [1985-1996]
16 boxes.
Mining companies and reclamation projects.
Olaus J. Murie [1917-1973]
6 boxes.
Murie's wildlife research and involvement in wilderness issues.
National Park Service [1969-1971]
1 box.
Oral history project.
Outdoor Writers Association of America [bulk 1940-1953]
15 boxes.
Primarily files of J. Hammond Brown (President) and E. Budd Marter, III (Executive Director)
Charles Lathrop Pack [1910-1930s]
4 boxes.
Writer who founded Nature and American Forests.
Phillipson Rod and Tackle Company [1960s-1970s]
17 boxes.
Company records of world-renowned fiberglas rod originator.
J. Clark Salyer [1910-1970s]
26 boxes.
Proposals, reports, and project files on wilderness and refuge areas.
Earl D. Sandvig [1923-1973]
1 box.
Overgrazing arguments between foresters and stockmen in the 1930s-1950s.
John F. Seiberling [1977-1986]
29 boxes.
Legislative documents regarding Alaska public lands acts and RARE II.
Walter P. Taylor [1940s-1950s]
10 boxes.
Biological surveys, correspondence, and field notes.
U.S. Forest Service [early 1900s]
63 boxes.
One of two unique collections of clippings; also photos and reports.
U.S. Soil Conservation Service [1940s-1950s]
14 boxes.
Newspaper, press and radio releases concerning land use issues, specifically overgrazing.
William Vogt [1930s-1960s]
13 boxes.
Correspondence, journals and manuscripts of famed ornithologist, soil conservationist and population advocate.
Wild Horse Annie (Velma V. Johnson) [1950s-1970s]
12 boxes.
Efforts that eventually pass the Wild Horse Annie Law (1959) and the Wild, Free Roaming Horse Act (1971).
The Wilderness Society [1935 - present]
527 boxes.
Organizational Records.
Stanley P. Young [1910s-1960s]
22 boxes.
Predator control activities in the first half of the twentieth century.
Wright & McGill Book Collection on Fishing  
Howard Zahniser Memorial Book Collection  

Here is a complete list of the Library's Conservation Manuscripts.


Western History / Genealogy Department
The Denver Public Library

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