On October 27, 1958, a new baby was born to a wealthy merchant in New York. His name was Theodore Roosevelt. While still young, he had asthma, which made him weak. He was not able to spend most of his time outdoors, but this was soon to change. Despite all this, Roosevelt had a very strong intellect. At an early age, he became interested in the wonders of nature and would often ask his father to buy him books on nature exploration. Over time, asthma attacks reduced, and Roosevelt became able to spend considerably longer time outdoors and got a chance to study nature. At the age of 13, he started wearing glasses to correct his weak sight and therefore properly see things in the world that he had only read about in books.
In 1872, Roosevelts went on a trip abroad. During this trip, and while still young, Roosevelt had the opportunity to use his new shotgun. This way, he was able to collect various bird specimens that were present along the Nile River. When they returned home, he became even more interested in collecting the specimen. He became very ambitious and decided to go for a field trip to the Adirondack Mountains. From thereon, his interest in specimen collection and natural history continued growing. At a young age, Roosevelt’s logs in his notebook showed how much zeal he had in studying nature.
In 1874 during the summer season, the family went to Long Island where they temporarily stayed in a house in Oyster Bay. During the stay, Roosevelt became excited with the birdlife. He spent most of his time walking by the shoreline, in the woods and fields of the paradise he had found. Ten years later, Roosevelt purchased land on Cove Neck and built his home near the place where his family had rented a house. Two years later, he got admission to Harvard University and wanted to become a naturalist. In 1877, he had done much research and published his scientific work about birds. In 1880, he graduated with a degree in natural history. Despite this, he found the German method of biology in the laboratory non-interesting. Therefore, he began searching for another career. He joined Columbia Law School after marrying Alice Lee but soon left it after becoming interested in political reforms.
Roosevelt’s childhood interest made him pursue the study of wild animals and hunting during most of his life. Besides tangible results of hunting, they had some real contributions to the United States’ natural history. Roosevelt wrote various articles in journals on wildlife, hunting, and outdoor life. Several his books talk about animals or natural history. With each major hunting trip, he wrote a book. Some of the books include Hunting the Grisly, The Wilderness Hunter, and Through the Brazilian Wilderness.
In 1898, due to Roosevelt’s fighting in the Spanish-American war after quitting the Navy, he came home a hero which resulted in him winning the election as the New York governor. While in office, a notable visitor, Gifford Pinchot, came to see the governor. He was the forestry division chief in the United States Department of Agriculture. Later, Pinchot became the governor’s adviser in drafting forest policy. H holded the position of an adviser even when Roosevelt was president.
Pinchot had a great influence on Roosevelt in matters concerning conservation of the environment and the management of forests. He clearly outlines in his autobiography:
We need to have our system of forestry gradually developed and conducted along scientific principles. When this has been done, it will be possible to allow marketable lumber to cut everywhere without damage to the forests – indeed, with positive advantage to them. But until lumbering is thus conducted, on strictly scientific principles no less than upon the principles of the strictest honesty toward the State, we cannot afford to suffer it at all in the State forests. Unrestrained greed means the ruin of the great woods and the drying up of the sources of the river.
Roosevelt’s political interest eventually led him to become the president of the United States in 1901. Even as a president, he continued his efforts to conserve the environment and thus made citizens often to refer him as the “conservationist president.” The country remembers Roosevelt as they named a national park after him that honors the memory of one of the greatest conservationists in the United States. Although the writings of Roosevelt depict that he was successful kills from numerous hunting trips, he lamented eradication of some game species and their habitats. It was a big loss that he felt despite this being an indication of how the society perceived the natural environment. He saw how overgrazing affected the environment; as a result of it, he lost his ranches.
Many people did not see the importance of conserving natural resources as they regarded them as inexhaustible. Others had their personal interests to reap profits from the exploitation of the resources. In one of his writings, Roosevelt notes that some individuals have achieved greatness because of exploiting national resources not caring whether the resources would soon be diminished. He further goes on to say that time has come when the nation has to reflect on the aftermath of deforestation and exhaustion of coal, iron, oil, and gas. He wonders what the citizens will do when they realize that there is soil erosion all over, and the land is impoverished. All of Roosevelt’s concerns were for a better future of the nation by ensuring conservation of the national resources and not letting a few individuals destroy the future of the nation for their personal gain.
Roosevelt’s heart became cemented with the idea of conserving the country’s cultural and national history. The idea became a major concern for him as he did not like to see the depletion of the resources. While his presidency, Roosevelt saw it important for the nation to protect its wildlife as well as its other natural resources. Since he had the authority, he decided to create the United States Forest Service. In addition to this, Roosevelt was able to establish other national resources to conserve the history and culture of the nation. Such included national forests, monuments, and game reserves. As the president of the United States, Roosevelt was able to protect approximately 230 million acres of public land. Today, his legacy is all over the country. For instance, six national parks are dedicated to his work as a conservationist.
As Roosevelt’s presidency tenure came to an end, he desired to unearth a means that would perhaps ensure that his conservation policies and efforts would persist. He called a conference of all governors to discuss national conservation challenges. The conference brought inspirations to many states which eventually encouraged them to establish conservation agencies and offered increased expectations of the federal government’s participation in protecting natural resources. The effort was so influencing that made Canada and Mexico hold a North American Conference on Conservation to discuss major issues of natural resources that spanned international boundaries. Due to the success of his conservation efforts, Roosevelt had an intention to hold a world conference; however, unfortunately, this did not happen as his office term was over before the conference could be organized. With the constant urge to conserve natural resources, Roosevelt felt that the country was running out of time. He claimed that the nation began with its citizens believing that the national resources are not limited and capable of supporting all of them together with the people that might migrate to the country. He notes that more people are settling on the lands that were once vacant; therefore, soon there would be little land capable of supporting agriculture. What worried him most was that the forests that were once the pride of the country were diminishing day by day and that almost half of the forest was already gone.
On his conservation efforts, Roosevelt needed allies to convince Congress as well as ordinary Americans that conservation of natural resources was valuable. Also, he needed to convince people that the venture was worth the benefits and that their participation would bring a lot of benefits to the nation. There are many challenges in one way or another. Some people, be it ones who have their personal interests, personal grudges or seeing the cause not important, nonetheless may try to obstruct one’s efforts on a particular cause. Roosevelt’s conservation efforts did not go without obstructions. Some senators took sides with threatened logging companies thus making a hindrance to Roosevelt accomplishing his goals. Some of the strong allies of Roosevelt included Gifford Pinchot and John Muir:
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Yet Roosevelt didn’t believe only in Pinchot’s notion that national forests were to be mainly conserved, not preserved. For Roosevelt, always interested in animals, forests were also “cradles of wildlife.
The political opponents of Roosevelt supported large logging companies that felt threatened by the conservation efforts of the president. Most of these opponents did not consider the effects that economic growth had on citizens and the environment. These logging companies wanted to log some of the nation’s forest to reap major profits without considering the effects on the environment and the community. As Barbara Morehouse notes in her book A Place Called Grand Canyon, loggers searched places where there was a vast amount of trees and cut down these trees to reap profits from them. The inhabitants used the trees to build houses. In fact, Northern Arizona’s two largest communities built their town using the trees that they cut to form the forest.
After leaving the White House in 1909, Theodore Roosevelt had fundamentally changed the policies and attitudes of the government towards the natural resources of the nation. He had also made great steps towards providing relevant information to the average citizen on the state of the natural resources of the nation. It is safe to say that Theodore Roosevelt had many accomplishments; among them, his works on conservation of natural resources may be one of his greatest legacies.