How Teddy Roosevelt’s love of hunting helped shape White River National Forest |

How Teddy Roosevelt’s love of hunting helped shape White River National Forest

Sarah Hankens
White River National Forest
It's time for lunch during Teddy Roosevelt's bear hunt near Divide Creek in 1905.
Glenwood Springs Historical Society |

Editor’s note

The Post Independent this year is celebrating local institutions’ anniversaries — including our own — with a special page on Sundays. The PI in 2017 traces its roots back 127 years, but our volume number this year is 125, while the White River National Forest also looks back on 125 years, and Colorado Mountain College marks 50 years.

The White River National Forest is 2.3 million acres, or just over 1 percent of the 193 million acres of National Forest System lands across the United States. These endless skies, mountain vistas, alpine meadows, deep divides and mountain streams compose just a fraction of the legacy of public lands that we have in this country.

The legacy that we have inherited, and carry forward, is in part informed by Theodore Roosevelt’s hunting trips to the area. This month, we look back at Roosevelt’s contributions to the White River National Forest in honor of his upcoming 159th birthday on Oct. 27.

In 1901, Roosevelt hunted for mountain lions in the famed Flat Tops, in the Danforth Hills near Meeker, where he learned of the local dissatisfaction of public land management in the White River Plateau Timberland Forest Reserve. Recognizing the public interest and resource needs for managing more than timber, he broadened the designation to Forest Reserve. This change in designation also resulted in a changed mission, broadening the Forest Service mission to include management for forage and water in addition to wood.

Roosevelt saw the value of not just these lands as a commodity resource for extraction, but for personal experience and enjoyment. Shortly after he created the U.S. Forest Service and national forests in 1905, Roosevelt visited the area yet again for a famed bear hunt in Divide Creek, south of what is today the town of Silt, returning with 10 bears.

Roosevelt’s successful hunts and forward thinking in conservation of our natural resources shaped the forests that we have now. Today, the Flat Tops area is home to the largest elk herd in the lower 48 states, bringing hunters and continued conservation interests to the area. Management of this big game species does not just consider the size of the herd, but rather the complexities of the entire ecosystem.

Habitat management is an integral part of managing national forests. Together with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, we work in partnership to manage, sustain, restore, support and contribute to healthy wildlife populations and natural ecosystems.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Habitat Partnership Program, funded by the revenue from the sale of big game licenses, contributes to projects that reduce wildlife conflicts and meet management objectives on both private and public lands. Successful partnerships with a number of wildlife agencies and game organizations is key to identifying projects that will both meet needs of hunters as well as short- and long-term wildlife management objectives.

In 1887, Roosevelt was quoted as saying, “There can be no greater cause than that of conservation in this country.” His vision of managing public lands for current and future generations, for the greatest good, continues to shape the tremendous National Forest system we have.

Today, the White River National Forest continues to be one of the premier hunting and fishing areas in Colorado, a destination for those who live here and those who travel here. The White River National Forest is proud of the rich tradition of hunting and fishing. We welcome hunters of all types, and each season forest rangers can be seen out in their blaze orange vests greeting hunters and wishing them luck on a successful and safe hunt. If you see a ranger while hunting, be sure to wave.

Hunting is not the only thing happening in the forest during the autumn months. If you are recreating in the forest during hunting season, here are a few tips on how to stay safe and be respectful of hunters and wildlife:

• Know before you go and understand where it is you are recreating: Learn about where and when hunting is taking place and plan accordingly.

• If you like to wear colors that stand out, hunting season is the right season for you. Wear bright clothing like hunter blaze orange, fluorescent red, green or pink. Avoid wearing earth-toned clothing.

• Don’t forget to protect your four-legged-friend too. Tie a swath of brightly colored fabric or a bandanna around your dog’s neck or purchase a hunter blaze orange dog vest.

• Whistle, sing or carry on a conversation as you walk to alert hunters to your presence.

• Be courteous. Once a hunter is aware of your presence, don’t make unnecessary noise that disturbs wildlife.

• Make yourself known. If you do hear shooting, raise your voice and let hunters know that you are in the vicinity.

• If you don’t feel comfortable outdoors this time of year, choose an area where hunting is not allowed. The most heavily hunted seasons last only a few weeks — find out when they occur and schedule your activities around them more information can be found by visiting our partners at Colorado Parks and Wildlife here

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