At Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), we understand the importance of spending time outside and witnessing the wonders of the diverse landscapes and more than 960 wildlife species that live in our colorful state.
Each year, the Photography Issue allows all of us at Colorado Parks and Wildlife to see the beauty of our state through the eyes of a talented group of professional and amateur photographers. The images showcased in this annual photo issue highlight the diverse wildlife, varied landscapes and the sportsmen and women and park visitors enjoying the abundance of Colorado. Their representations of how beloved our state’s resources are to our residents and visitors make the hard work of managing conservation and outdoor recreation that we do at Colorado Parks and Wildlife worth every moment.
While we have long known that Colorado lives life outside, the recent pandemic has brought to the forefront on a national scale that people look to our natural resources for solace during challenging times. This reality was one of the key reasons why our dedicated staff worked so hard throughout the year to keep our state lands open to the public, so people could escape to the great outdoors for the mental and physical health benefits.
This year forced all of us to readjust our daily routines, forfeit time with loved ones and cancel travel, parties, weddings and other events and excursions. But through it all, it was incredible to see how many people still looked to nature for fulfillment and joy even when they were required to stay close to home.
In an effort to inspire people to connect with the outdoors even during a pandemic, we launched a social media campaign titled #DearColorado to encourage people to share pictures from their favorite outdoor adventures. We were overwhelmed by the stunning wildlife and landscape photography that poured in as part of this experiment, and we received rave reviews from people about the content we were resharing from participating photographers. It proved to many of us that nature connects us all, even virtually!
When media outlets and social media channels are flooded with stories on the challenges this pandemic brought to all of us, it has been uplifting to see pictures of positive content like breathtaking landscapes, wildlife exploring their habitat or people recreating responsibly and picking up trash at parks or on the trails.
I want to thank the photographers who captured our state’s natural beauty. Your art and creativity has helped our outdoor community immensely this year. The pictures you shared with others helped to inspire, comfort and remind us how much nature enriches our lives. Your pictures made people smile, brought a sense of calmness and helped people see the beauty that surrounds us.
As you marvel at the beautiful images captured in this year’s photo issue, we ask you to also reflect on the work it takes to maintain 42 state parks, 350 state wildlife areas and those 960 species living on our public lands. The lands and the wildlife that you cherish are equally loved by the hundreds of dedicated professionals who work to ensure the health and prosperity of these resources every day.
Our agency remains committed to preserving Colorado’s outdoor heritage for future generations. This year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife joined the Care for Colorado Coalition and partnered with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to help promote responsible recreation and educate people on how to balance outdoor recreation with mindful conservation. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is the first state agency in the U.S. that oversees parks, fish and wildlife to partner with Leave No Trace and advocate for both public land and wildlife conservation.
This year, Governor Jared Polis signed an Executive Order creating the Colorado Outdoor Regional Partnerships Initiative, which will establish a statewide vision for conservation and recreation to ensure our communities continue to thrive for future generations. Colorado’s land, water, wildlife and recreation infrastructure have been strained by a dramatic increase in population, tourism and outdoor use. This Executive Order will meet these challenges head-on through thoughtful planning and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders.
As a means to fundamentally advance wildlife conservation in Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is in support of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which would dedicate approximately $27 million to Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s State Wildlife Action Plan, designed to manage and protect threatened species and restore critical habitat in the state. This represents an opportunity to secure long-term wildlife conservation funding at a critical time — and at a magnitude that has never before been possible.
Those funds would help us to expand the work that we are already doing on the ground, thanks to our hunters, anglers, parks visitors and so many other Coloradans who continue to support the conservation work that is at the core of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. It is because of your contributions that the agency is able to enact our mission to perpetuate the wildlife resources of the state, provide a quality parks system and provide enjoyable and sustainable recreation opportunities that inspire current and future generations to serve as active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources.
The staff of Colorado Parks and Wildlife are honored to be the face of conservation in Colorado, but it is all of us who make up its heart. And we are thankful every day for the opportunity to work with you in conserving and protecting the beauty of our state.
Dan Prenzlow, Director
Colorado Parks and Wildlife