Synchronize with the table of contents  INTRODUCTION



Mabel E. Salyer (Mrs. John C. Salyer) donated the John Clark Salyer Papers in November 1966.


The collection is open for research.


The John Clark Salyer Papers are the physical property of the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


[Identification of item], John Clark Salyer Papers, CONS68, Conservation Collection, The Denver Public Library.


Number of Boxes: 20 (20 linear ft.)




Robert Russell

June 2003


Claudia Jensen

July 2004


Ellen Zazzarino


John Clark Salyer has been recognized as “the father of the wildlife refuges” and is widely known for his efforts as Director of Wildlife Refuges toward the preservation of North American waterfowl and other wildlife. Salyer was born in Missouri in 1899. His youth was spent outdoors-hunting, fishing, and trapping. He attended college at Central College in Fayette, Missouri, where he received an A.B. in Biology in 1927. He went on to receive his M.A. in zoology from the University of Michigan in 1930.

While studying for his doctorate in Ann Arbor, he was approached to work for the U.S. Biological Survey. He agreed to take six month's leave from the graduate program and try the job in Washington D.C. He entered service with the Biological Survey on July 3, 1934. The refuge system had been allotted $2.5 million, but the money had to be spent by March 30 1935. Salyer was responsible for examining potential refuges, and deciding if they were worthy of protection. In six weeks he selected 600,000 acres of lands to be designated national refuges. His tenacious pace when visiting the various proposed wildlife refuges across the United States was legendary among his contemporaries. On December 17, 1934, Salyer was named chief of the Branch of Wildlife Refuges, which was part of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. The rest of his tenure was devoted to expanding the refuge system and defending existing refuges from outside interests. He remained as Chief of Wildlife Refuges until August of 1961, when his sight began to fail him.

Salyer was awarded the Nash Conservation Award in 1957 and the Department of the Interior's Distinguished Service Award in 1962. He stayed on with the Division of Wildlife as a staff specialist right up to his death in 1966.

Information obtained from J. Clark Salyer II: The Man Who Built the Refuges by George Laycock, Field and Stream April 1968, and items in the John Clark Salyer Papers.


The John Clark Salyer Papers are comprised of items from 1911 to 1970. The entire collection dates from Salyer's tenure with the Department of the Interior, where he served as Chief of Wildlife Refuges. Correspondence, reports, newspaper clippings, and maps are all included in the collection.

The Salyer Papers provide a window into the work of John Clark Salyer and his time at the Department of Wildlife Refuges. Superintendent's reports, inter-office notes, and correspondence from landowners proposing new refuges to be located on their lands, all provide information that is not otherwise readily available. The majority of the collection is arranged by state, then by alphabetical listing of refuge titles. Salyer's efforts as an author are also included in the collection. All of the articles in the collection focus on wildlife management topics. Other items gathered during Salyer's tenure with Wildlife Refuges can be found in series three (reference files). Series three is comprised of correspondence with contemporaries, topical files, and memos describing the Department of the Interior policies. The collection does not contain Salyer's personal papers, or items relating to his life outside of the Department of Wildlife Refuges.


This series makes up the bulk of the collection, and is comprised of reports, correspondence, maps, and other items from Salyer's tenure as Chief of Wildlife Refuges for the Department of the Interior. Much of the information addresses the establishment of wildlife refuges, but other topics include management of refuges, possible threats to refuge lands, and specific species in wildlife refuges. The material in this series is arranged by state, and alphabetically by the name of the refuges in each state.


Salyer wrote many articles about wildlife preservation and wildlife refuges in the United States. Some of these articles make up this series. Topics include waterfowl preservation, wildlife refuge management, and drainage of wetlands. Drafts of articles, correspondence, notes, and published copies comprise a portion of this series.

SERIES 3 REFERENCE FILES 1951-1973 BOX 17-19 :

Throughout his tenure with the Department of the Interior, Salyer compiled many items not dealing with specific wildlife refuges. These files include correspondence, reports, newspaper clippings, and maps. General topics, such as wildlife management in national parks, waterfowl habitat, oil and gas leases on federal lands, and wildlife refuge legislation form part of this series. Specific topics such as individuals, organizations, and projects are also included in this series. All material is arranged alphabetically by subject.



  • Salyer, John Clark -- Archives.
  • United States. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife -- Officials and employees.
  • U.S Fish and Wildlife Service -- Officials and employees.
  • Wildlife refuges -- United States.
  • Wilderness areas -- United States.
  • Birds -- Conservation -- United States.
  • Wildlife conservation -- United States.