John D. Hart’s legacy captured in DOW award

You have to know something of the history of the Colorado Division of Wildlife to appreciate the legacy of John D. Hart.

Despite the passage of wildlife protection laws as early as 1861 and the appointment of a paid State Fish and Game Warden in 1891, poaching still was commonplace in Colorado when Hart was hired in 1919 by what then was the Colorado Department of Game and Fish.

His career spanned 40 years, from the agency’s first chief game warden (at $75 per month, providing his own horse and gun) to the agency’s first assistant director.

During his four decades in wildlife conservation, Hart epitomized the agency’s commitment to preserving and enhancing Colorado’s wildlife and the aggressive pursuit of poachers and other wildlife violators.

Hart, who was from Grand Junction, played a key role in relocating wild turkeys to the Uncompahgre Plateau, feeding soft corn to the Ozark bluehead turkeys during their early adjustment time on the plateau. He also admitted to welding iron rails to the undercarriage of his car so it cornered better when he was chasing poachers.

At his retirement on July 1, 1959, Hart remarked that being a game warden “is not a popularity contest. You must believe in the work ... be (bound) to uphold it and command for it the respect it deserves.”


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