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Wilderness Study Group Records

Identifier: COU:3792

Scope and Contents

The Wilderness Study Group Papers is organized alphabetically according to the region of study. The first accession of the collection contains internship and employment information on the Wilderness Study Group Summer Projects from 1972 to 1994.

The majority of the collection represents the work of the Wilderness Study Group Summer Projects from 1972 and 1994. The Wilderness Study Group Summer Projects hold information on the multi-year Road-less Wilderness Project. The Road-less Wilderness Project includes planimetrics, mapping and surveying, and proposals and policy resulting from the above studies regarding resource and land management. Additionally, photographs, photograph negatives, and photographic slides were taken to document the land changes under then current policy.

Data on endangered species, resource inventories such as timber sales, coal mining, watershed levels, and local land use information was collected regarding road-less wilderness recommendations to government agencies and officials.


  • Creation: 1972 - 1994

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Limited duplication of materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Biographical / Historical

Students at the University of Colorado interested in preserving Colorado’s Wilderness initiated The Wilderness Study Group in 1970. By pursuing three areas of public land management: wilderness research, public education, and distribution of research, the Wilderness Study Group has helped to convert otherwise exploitable landscapes into Wilderness Areas. Designated wilderness areas have been protected under the National Environmental Protection Act (1968), the Wilderness Act (1970) and the BLM Organic Act (1976), among other laws. However, de facto wilderness has had to qualify for Congressional wilderness classification, which required public persuasion and research. The Wilderness Study Group has carried out field research usually during the summer months concerning timber status, vegetation, wildlife patterns and habitat as well as recreational use and mineralization. The information gathered by the Wilderness Study Group has supplemented other reports and studies performed by other agencies and officials such as the Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Information, technique and research data from the Wilderness Study Group has also provided resources for students across disciplines within the University. As well as university students, the Wilderness Study Group has collaborated with and provided information for other Colorado conservation groups and interested individuals. Proposals made by the Wilderness Study Group have had key influence in the consideration of Colorado’s possible Wilderness areas. For example, in 1973 the wilderness study group reported on the Chicago Basin and Wenimuche Primitive area to the Colorado Open Space Council and the U.S. Senate Public Lands subcommittee. Two days later Congressman James Johnson of the fourth congressional district requested information on the Mount Zirkel area. Examples such as the Wenimuche and Mount Zirkel Wilderness , according to former WSG treasurer and chairman of COSC Wilderness Workshop Edward Whitesell has given importance to public comment on land and resource legislature, “the Wilderness Study Group’s investigations were done in the tradition of objectivity and thoroughness that has established citizen field research organizations in the Wilderness Movement.”

The Wilderness Study Group has been an influential public source in congress because it has recognized many of the immediate public concerns surrounding land management. The first six Colorado wild-lands to be of primary concern to the group (1972) were Holy Cross wilderness, Hunter-Frying Pan in White River National Forest including the Maroon Bells and Snowmass Wilderness, La Garita, First Fork within the Piedra Forest of the San Juans, and Hermosa. Later the Group added (1973) Mount Zirkel, Dinosaur National Monument, Flattops, Eagle’s Nest and the Weminuche Primitive area. The Wilderness Study Group has included hundreds of areas into its focus, including the Bison’s grazing range in Yellowstone National Park to the Rainforests of Northern Brazil.

In the process of investigating and making proposals regarding wilderness, the Wilderness Study Group sought to gather information that led to public recommendations concerning the distribution and preservation of land units. Insight not only into the makeup of the land but also the public policy effecting land, wildlife and natural resources has directed attention to environmental areas around Colorado. The Wilderness Study Group gathered research data as well as investigating the National Forest Service’s environmental impact statements regarding Colorado’s roadless wilderness areas and resource management in both the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Since then the Wilderness Study Group has been working on two fronts; the summer months provide data acquisition between fall and spring. During the remainder of the year, the group developed policy comprehension in work-shops, training, and experimental courses. Within the workshops, in 1972 some forty individuals, lecturing on policy, at one point offering an experimental course to CU students entitled “Wilderness Policy”, interning at the National Forest Service offices, and following up on previous field studies.

The Wilderness Study Group has had to change its approach throughout its existence. During its first ten years the group was working to assist in the establishment wilderness areas with a sympathetic federal and state government. During the next decade the group needed to take a more defensive posture in the face of more antagonistic administrations. In the 1990’s the Wilderness Study Group was able to participate in the further expansion of the nation’s wilderness areas. Since 2001 the group faces new challenges on both the political front and the training on technological advances.


57 linear feet (38 Boxes)

Language of Materials



The Wilderness Study Group papers represents over twenty five years of research in public land and wilderness protection from both an active role in local, state and federal government and to field research across Western Colorado. Within the student sponsored Wilderness Study Group papers are maps from across the Colorado Rockies, contacts and correspondence with government officials, agencies and citizen conservationists pertaining to wilderness and public lands, and information on ecological changes resulting from mismanagement and abuse of wilderness and public lands.


This collection is arranged in alphabetically order, with a box level inventory.

In Progress
Processed by E.S. Croog.
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States