Preserving Colorado's Wilderness: A Historical Overview of National and State Parks

Preserving Colorado's Wilderness: A Historical Overview of National and State Parks

Welcome to our wildlife and landscape conservation blog! Today, we will be delving into the rich history of national and state parks in Colorado. From the majestic Rocky Mountains to the vast plains and deserts, Colorado is home to diverse ecosystems that have been preserved and protected for future generations to enjoy. We will explore the origins of these parks, the legislation that brought them into existence, and how they generate revenue for conservation efforts.

National and State Park History In Colorado

Colorado's national and state parks have a long and storied history. The preservation of wilderness areas in Colorado can be traced back to the late 19th century when the idea of preserving natural wonders for future generations gained momentum across the United States. In 1872, Yellowstone National Park became the first national park in the world, setting a precedent for the conservation of natural landscapes. As the conservation movement gained traction, Colorado emerged as a prime location for the establishment of national and state parks due to its diverse and breathtaking landscapes.

One of the earliest national parks in Colorado is Rocky Mountain National Park, established in 1915. Located in the northern part of the state, Rocky Mountain National Park is renowned for its rugged peaks, alpine meadows, and pristine wilderness. It was designated as a national park by President Woodrow Wilson under the Organic Act of 1916, which aimed to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations" (National Park Service, 2019a).

State and National Park Legislation

Over the years, several pieces of legislation have played a crucial role in the establishment and management of national and state parks in Colorado. The Antiquities Act of 1906, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, granted the President the authority to designate national monuments to protect areas of historic, cultural, and scientific significance. This act has been instrumental in the creation of several national monuments in Colorado, such as the Colorado National Monument, which protects unique rock formations and canyons in the western part of the state.

Another significant piece of legislation is the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916, which created the National Park Service (NPS) and tasked it with the responsibility of managing national parks and monuments. The NPS is an agency within the Department of the Interior and is responsible for the preservation and management of natural and cultural resources in national parks across the United States, including Colorado. The NPS works to ensure that these parks are protected for future generations while also providing opportunities for enjoyment and education.

State parks in Colorado are managed by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) agency, which was established in 2011 through the merger of the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Colorado State Parks. The CPW is responsible for the conservation and management of wildlife and state parks in Colorado, including 42 state parks that offer a wide range of recreational activities, such as camping, hiking, fishing, and boating.

Revenue Generation

National and state parks in Colorado generate revenue through various means to support their conservation efforts. Entrance fees, camping fees, and other recreational fees are some of the primary sources of revenue for national parks in Colorado. These fees help fund visitor services, maintenance of park infrastructure, and resource management efforts. For example, Rocky Mountain National Park generated over $13 million in revenue from entrance and camping fees in 2019 (National Park Service, 2020).

In addition to fees, national parks in Colorado also benefit from philanthropic efforts through donations and partnerships with nonprofit organizations. Many national parks have established Friends Groups, which are nonprofit organizations that work in partnership with the park to raise funds, support projects, and engage in community outreach and education programs. These efforts help generate additional revenue for conservation initiatives and enhance visitor experiences in the parks.

Similarly, state parks in Colorado also generate revenue through entrance fees, camping fees, and other recreational fees. These fees are used to support park operations, maintenance, and conservation efforts. Additionally, state parks may also receive funding from state budgets, grants, and partnerships with local communities and nonprofit organizations to further support their conservation initiatives and educational programs.

It's important to note that the revenue generated by national and state parks in Colorado is critical for their continued conservation efforts. As federal and state budgets for conservation may fluctuate, these parks heavily rely on visitor fees and philanthropic efforts to support their operations and protect the natural and cultural resources they preserve.

Getting Involved

If you are passionate about wildlife and landscape conservation and want to contribute to the preservation of Colorado's national and state parks, there are several ways to get involved:

  1. Visit the Parks: One of the most effective ways to support national and state parks is by visiting them and experiencing the beauty and wonder of these natural landscapes. By paying entrance fees and participating in recreational activities, you are directly contributing to the revenue that supports park conservation efforts.

  2. Volunteer: Many national and state parks in Colorado offer volunteer programs that allow you to contribute your time and skills to help with various conservation and educational projects. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the parks and make a meaningful impact on their conservation efforts.

  3. Donate: National and state parks in Colorado often have nonprofit partners or donation programs that accept charitable contributions to support their conservation initiatives. Donations can go towards funding important projects, such as trail maintenance, wildlife research, and educational programs.

  4. Advocate: Stay informed about conservation issues and advocate for policies and legislation that support the protection of national and state parks in Colorado. Engage in discussions, write to elected officials, and join advocacy groups to have a voice in protecting these precious natural resources.

Colorado's national and state parks are a testament to the rich natural heritage of the state and the efforts of conservationists, lawmakers, and communities to protect and preserve these landscapes for future generations. Through the establishment of national and state parks, the enactment of legislation, and the support of visitors and philanthropic efforts, these parks continue to thrive and provide invaluable opportunities for outdoor recreation, education, and conservation.

If you want to learn more about Colorado's national and state parks, their history, and ways to get involved, check out the following resources:

  1. National Park Service - Colorado:
  2. Colorado Parks and Wildlife:
  3. Friends of Colorado State Parks:
  4. Rocky Mountain Conservancy:
  5. Conservation Colorado:


  1. National Park Service. (2019a). Organic Act of 1916. Retrieved from
  2. National Park Service. (2020). Rocky Mountain National Park - Visitor Use Statistics. Retrieved from
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