For me, the word “conservation” conjures a larger than life American character – Theodore Roosevelt.
Teddy Roosevelt is considered the first conservation president. He made conservation issues a priority and an item on his agenda for the nation. TR is best known for setting aside Federal lands for natural preserves and national parks. But, he also initiated and encouraged passage of the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902, which promoted federal projects to build dams for the irrigation of small farms. The Act also ensured federal protection of over 230 million acres of land with over 194 million designated as National Forests. This was more than all previous presidents combined. Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States.
Others at the time favored conservation for pure beauty’s sake – preserve lands and waterways just as they were. Roosevelt, however, proffered the notion of sustainability – use resources but ensure their re-generation for the benefit of the present and also for future generations. His philosophy was that the forest should be nurtured to produce the greatest amount of whatever crop would be most useful, and cultivated to continue doing so for years and years in the future.
Even before he was President, Teddy Roosevelt fostered the establishment of the Boone and Crockett Club. This was an organization concerned with the preservation of America’s large game animals, especially the American buffalo. After becoming President, Roosevelt encouraged Congress to establish a new herd of buffalo in Yellowstone National Park to prevent the extinction of this over-hunted species.
During his 7 ½ years as President, the Inland Waterways Commission was appointed in 1907. The committee then convened a National Conservation Congress. The meeting was a major milestone for American conservation and for igniting interest in conservation at both the State and Federal levels. The results of the discussions included a call for a record and registration of the United States’ natural resources. Appointed by President Roosevelt in 1908, the National Conservation Commission was responsible for conducting the inventory.
The creation of the National Conservation Commission ensured the continuation of the conservation movement. At the time, Roosevelt’s idea of conservation was ground-breaking. His great love of the outdoors sparked the initiation of Acts and activism which worked to set aside forests and lands for recreation and conservation. To this day across America, National Parks and Forests are enjoyed by millions each year. If you are visiting the U.S. or planning your vacation, include a trip to one of these natural preserves. You can almost see the bespectacled character, Theodore Roosevelt with lips curled into a broad grin exclaim, “Bully!”
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
Johnny Appleseed Inspired is written by our contributing editor, Terri Grover-Miller