VALLEY — Glen Hinshaw was the wildlife officer in the Upper Rio Grande for nearly 22 years. He went on to be the information and education specialist for the southwest region and retired in 1997 as the education coordinator for western Colorado, including the San Luis Valley. His book“Crusaders for Wildlife,” was published in 2000. That book focused on the Upper Rio Grande and was based on interviews he did with pioneers born as early as 1888. It is now out of print.
His new book, Crusaders for Wildlife 2nd Edition, tells the story of what happened throughout southwestern Colorado when the white man came into a self-sustaining ecosystem inhabited by the Ute Indians and that had endured for thousands of years. Using narrative accompanied by maps, drawings, photographs, and stories of pioneers he interviewed, Hinshaw examines the resulting impacts of trappers, prospectors, miners, loggers, homesteaders, and more recently urban recreationists-have had on wildlife and wilderness.
Hinshaw introduces the reader to early conservationists and legislation designed to mitigate loss of habitat and wildlife. His extensive experience and background help him to explain how fish, birds, and mammals were saved from extinction, and in some cases, reintroduced to the lands and waters where they had all but disappeared.
His narrative begins before the beginning of the 20th Century, and continues through the Depression, the war years through 2018. He talks in detail about the time he was a wildlife officer in the Four Corners and Upper Rio Grande from the early 1960s through the 1990s and beyond. His own exploits are punctuated with stories, sometimes hair-raising, sometimes humorous, of the old-timers he interviewed and contemporaries he worked with. He credits many agencies, organizations and individuals from agriculture, business, and thousands of citizen volunteers who have played an important role to perpetuate Colorado’s wildlife heritage.
The author spent his entire career working in southwest Colorado. Like any other wildlife officer, Hinshaw performed a mind-bogging array of duties: counting elk by helicopter, tagging elk for migration studies, stocking steams; tracking and catching bad guys by plane, boat, kayak, 4-wheel drive pickup, horseback, and on foot to enforce wildlife laws, assisting sheriffs and other law enforcement officers.
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, took thousands of pictures, and interviewed hundreds of people, gathering letters, old photographs, journals, and diaries.
In his Preface, Hinshaw explains why wildlife history 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 wildlife 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.”
Crusaders for Wildlife 2nd Edition has 402 pages with 172 pictures and illustrations and includes an audio CD of pioneers talking about living with wildlife in the early 1900s. The book is available at the Kentucky Belle Market in Creede and can be ordered directly from Hinshaw’s website: glen-hinshaw-author.com