My Story

MikeI am an Assistant Professor of Environmental History and Sustainability at the University of Northern Iowa, were I teach multidisciplinary courses on 19 and 20th Century American history, the environment, and social issues. My work focuses on US environmental history in a global context, specifically the history of tourism, outdoor recreation and sustainability. Raised outside the Colorado mountain town of Fraser, lovingly known as the “Icebox of the Nation,” I spent most of my childhood roaming the surrounding woods and perusing the shelves at the local library. After completing my Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees, I worked as a ski bum, customer service manager, and sometime journalist covering the outdoor recreation and environmental issues for magazines such as VeloNews. I then moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, to pursue my doctorate in environmental and public history.

Since then I have managed large administrative histories including Yosemite National Park, the Las Vegas Valley Water District and fire management within the National Parks, and taught a broad range of classes, including an environmental history of the Mississippi River Basin, the History of Outdoor Recreation, and historical methods.

Colorado Powder Keg CoverMy first book, Colorado Powder Keg: Ski Resorts and the Environmental Movement, examines the history of  Colorado’s ski industry from its emergence in the late 19th century through controversy of Vail Ski Resort’s Category III expansion in the early 21st century. I argue that the growing economic importance of downhill skiing throughout the 20th century reflected the emergence of postindustrial shift where mountains became have become more valuable as ski resorts than as rangelands. By investigating how private interests profited from the development of public lands,  the role of the U.S. Forest Service in fostering the development of ski resorts, and the changing value of nature from extractive use to recreational use throughout the 20th century. My work has been featured on NPR’s Colorado Matters and numerous newspapers and periodicals.

For more see my CV.

I can be contacted at


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