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HIST 410: Environmental History of the United States

An introduction to conducting primary and secondary source research into the environmental history of the United States

Explore topics

Topics with numerous resources at Tomlinson Library, especially in Special Collections and Archives

  • Water management by the Bureau of Reclamation, especially in the Colorado River Basin
  • Uranium mining and milling on the Colorado Plateau and internationally
  • Oil shale development and environmental impact in Colorado and the United States
  • Politics of land, water, and resource management in the West
  • Mining for precious minerals and coal in the West
  • Development of the railroad and roadways in the West

Example of primary sources on Fryingpan-Arkansas Project (transmountain water diversion)

The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project diverts water from the Western Slope of Colorado to the Arkansas Valley in eastern Colorado. The project was debated for years in Colorado and Washington D.C. before finally being authorized after substantial negotiations and compromises. Given the current drought on the Colorado River, the concerns of the Western Slope regarding all transmountain diversions seem almost prescient. Also up for debate was the then future possibility that Western Colorado would be able to develop an oil shale industry for which the water would be needed. These primary documents demonstrate some of the debate in the late 1950s before the negotiations and compromises that eventually allowed the project to be authorized.

Example of primary sources on Dinosaur National Monument (mistakes were made)

During debates about the Colorado River Storage Project (CRSP) in the mid-1950s, one proposal included building the Echo Park Dam inside Dinosaur National Monument in northwestern Colorado on the Green River below the mouth of the Yampa River. These debates ultimately centered around the limits of protections on national parks and monuments and also proved to be one of the major victories (and mistakes) of the Sierra Club. Ultimately, conservationists sacrificed Glen Canyon (now Lake Powell) to save Dinosaur National Monument without realizing what would be lost by doing so.