Theodore Roosevelt:A Conservationist’s Hero
Theodore Roosevelt was a president, soldier, people’s man, author, hunter, and conservationist. He is also one of my heroes for his work in establishing places where wildlife can roam freely and safely,and where we can learn about them. Over the course of his career, he established several National Parks and National Forests and worked to ensure that wild places affected by humans were restored.
Early in his adulthood, Roosevelt lived on a ranch in what is now North Dakota. He saw the impact of people on wildlife and the environment. Case in point: an estimated 500 American Bison were left from the thousands bison that roamed only a few decades before. He resolved to take action, once elected to President and after, Roosevelt did just that.
On August 31, 1910, during a speech given in Kansas he said, “Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us... Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation."
Roosevelt did more than just talk. As President, Roosevelt provided federal protection for almost 230 million acres of land, an area equivalent to the entire Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida. With that land, he set aside 150 national forests, the first 51 federal bird reservations, five national parks, the first 18 national monuments, the first four national game preserves and the first 24 reclamation projects. As a result, many of the endangered species such as the American Bison were able to come back from the brink of extinction.
I’ve talked about what Roosevelt did, but I haven’t talked about why he is one my heroes. During the time of his political career, huge companies (or trusts) that would let nothing stand in their way, dominated U.S. industry. Roosevelt could have let these trusts rampage across this country’s wild lands, leaving nothing but waste. But instead, Roosevelt led the way in not only creating places (such as national parks) where the trusts could not come and destroy, but he also made sure when companies use the resources of the land, there are laws that restrict their activities and require them to restore areas to their former glory before the projects.
Sometimes it’s easy for us to take our wild places for granted. My generation is used to getting what we want pretty easily – whether it’s the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, downloading the latest song, or driving a few hours to experience the magnificence of Yellowstone National Park and its inhabitants. Sometimes we forget what it took to protect this land…and the responsibility we have to make sure it staysthat way.
Theodore Roosevelt was a true hero. He was responsible for many of the places where we go across the U.S. to see amazing places and wildlife, to think about our lives, get away from the world or spend time with our friends and family. He helped to shape the United States.