The Crusaders Story

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Crusaders for Wildlife, by Glen A. Hinshaw, relates what happened when the white man was introduced into a self-sustaining ecosystem that had endured for thousands of years. Using narrative accompanied by maps, drawings, and photographs, and stories of pioneers he interviewed, Hinshaw examines the resulting, devastating impact of trappers, prospectors, loggers,  homesteaders, and urban recreationists – on wildlife and wilderness.

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Men standing in front of the Elk Creek Sawmill near South Fork, Colorado.
Circa 1910. (Nell Wyley Collection, Creede Historical Society Archives)

Hinshaw introduces you to early conservationists and legislation designed to mitigate loss of habitat wildlife. His extensive experience and background help him to explain how fish, birds, and mammals were saved from extinction, and n some cases, reintroduced to the lands where they had all but disappeared.

His narrative begins even before the beginning of the 20th century, and continues through the Depression and war years. He talks in detail about the time he served the wilderness, from the 1960s through the 1980s, and beyond. His own exploits are punctuated with stories, sometimes hair-raising, sometimes humous, of the old-timers he interviewed and the contemporaries he worked with.

The author spent his entire career working in Southwest Colorado.  Like other wildlife officers, Hinshaw performed a mind-boggling array of duties: counting elk (from the air) and tagging them on the ground; stocking streams and cleaning out silt-filled ditches and streams, sometimes wearing scuba gear; tracking and catching bad guys by plane, boat, kayak, jeep, horseback, and on foot, to give tickets or warnings.

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Dave Kenvin (background) and I patrolling the Rio Grande below Wagon Wheel Gap in 1985.

All the while he recognized the importance of recording history and saving it, before it was lost.  To that end, Hinshaw traveled thousands of miles (a lot of it on horseback), took thousands of pictures, and interviewed hundreds of people, gathering letters, old photographs, journals, and diaries.

In his Preface, Hinshaw explains why wildlife history and why it matters to us today.

“People who live, work, and recreate in the mountains of Colorado have a rich wildlife heritage.  Many don’t realize it, but some wild animals were already on the brink of extinction 125 years ago.  Now, most—but not all—species have been restored, and it is easy to take for granted the wild animals, birds, and fish that enhance our lives in what remains in these wild places of southwestern Colorado.

“A great part of the crusade was performed by people who for the most part have never been recognized for their contributions.  We owe them honor and tribute.  Without some appreciation of this legacy, we are poorer.  Recognizing our debt makes us richer with knowledge.

“A generation that learns the history of our wildlife heritage and legacy of stewardship, which brought it back from the edge of extinction, is responsible to pass on what has been learned to our youth and thousands of visitors.”

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