It’s Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s 125th Anniversary!

The year 2022 is going to be a big one for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. It represents the 125th anniversary of the first state agency created to conserve wildlife in Colorado.
Colorado Game and Fish Department Truck
Historical Photo: Colorado Game and Fish Department – Fish Planting Car No. 1
125th logo

The year 2022 is going to be a big one for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. It represents the 125th anniversary of the first state agency created to conserve wildlife in Colorado.

In 1897, CPW’s ancestor agency – the Department of Forestry, Game and Fish – was created. However, Coloradans can trace their roots in wildlife conservation back many years earlier, to the first “Fish Commissioner” position that existed from 1877 to 1892. The position evolved into “State Fish Commissioner and Game Warden” from 1893-96.

That’s when the Colorado General Assembly would create the “Department of Forestry, Game and Fish.” Two years later the name was changed to “Department of Game and Fish.” That name lasted until 1963 when it merged with the “Parks and Recreation Department” to form the “Game, Fish and Parks Department.”

In 1968, lawmakers converted the department into a division within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. In 2011, the Division of Wildlife merged with Colorado State Parks to create today’s modern Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Turns out 1897 was a pivotal year in wildlife conservation in many ways as the new department issued its first three information pamphlets listing game seasons, game laws and fines for violations. 

It also saw the appointment of the first superintendent of fish hatcheries. And that same year, Colorado declared that all wild birds, animals and fish are the sole property of the state.

CPW has grown from that one-man operation in 1877 into a dynamic agency of 900 or so wildlife officers, park rangers, aquatic and terrestrial biologists and researchers (all holding college biology and science degrees) operating with a $200 million annual budget and managing 43 state parks.

Why does all this matter? CPW Director Dan Prenzlow believes it’s important that we remind ourselves – and the 5.7 million people who call Colorado home – why we do what we do.

“This 125th anniversary is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s mission of perpetuating the wildlife resources of the state and providing quality parks,” Prenzlow said. “And it will show our dedication to educating and inspiring future generations to become stewards of our natural resources.”

State Forest State Park Visitor Center
State Forest State Park Visitor Center

A Year of Storytelling

So over the next 12 months, CPW will publish a series of stories describing the history of wildlife conservation in Colorado. 

We’ll share our stories on the Colorado Outdoors blog and magazine, in videos, on the Colorado Outdoors podcast, in historic photos and in community celebrations.   

We look forward to reading the many stories to come highlighting those efforts and many more such as:

  • A profile of Annie Metcalf, Colorado’s first woman game warden. She was appointed a deputy game warden in 1898 in Routt County. She wasn’t afraid of mountain lions but she dreaded cows!
  • The story of her modern successors, starting with Susan Smith, the first woman appointed a District Wildlife Manager in Vail in February 1975.
  • The evolution of roadside parks and state recreation areas into our first state park, Lathrop near Walsenburg, on June 9, 1961, and our current roster of 43 state parks that offer world class outdoor recreation.
  • Stories that highlight the agency’s terrestrial and aquatic biologists and researchers whose groundbreaking work has led the fight against chronic wasting disease in moose, elk and deer, combatted whirling disease in fish, expanded our understanding of the genetics of various species and helped the agency become a leader in balancing the carrying capacity of habitat with the various wildlife species competing on the landscape . 
  • Their dedicated service has helped restore the endangered black-footed ferret, bald eagles, lynx, Peregrine falcons, the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, the greenback cutthroat trout, boreal toads, Gunnison’s sage grouse, moose, Rio Grande and Colorado river cutthroat trout, and many other critical fish and wildlife species. 

“It’s particularly important to tell these stories now because we have so many newcomers to Colorado who have no idea of our history,” Prenzlow said. “They don’t know what a struggle it has been to preserve our big game, small game, native aquatic species and balance the needs of wildlife with the available habitat in the face of growing pressure from human development.”

Thank you for your support and we look forward to celebrating with you!

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is celebrating its 125th Anniversary throughout 2022 to honor the legacy of our agency and the talented staff who make fulfilling CPW’s important mission possible. For more stories like this, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s 125th Anniversary web page!

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