There are few men as respected and admired as our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt. You may not even know much about the man – but surely you can conjure up a picture: the bushy mustache, the square jaw, with the curious appeal of a bodybuilding scholar. We’re talking about the President who charged the rifle-pits of San Juan on horseback, alone. The only President to have a boxing ring installed in The White House so that he could spar frequently… against professional boxers.
As burly and brusque of a man as Mr. Roosevelt appeared to be, he was never afraid to show his gentler side with great pride (we are talking about Teddy Roosevelt, after all). Our great, gentle-giant of a President was widely known for his love of family, country, and nature, above all else. That’s why we’re so glad to write about him. Without his conservationist efforts and sage-like foresight we may very well have depleted the majority of our Nation’s natural resources within the century.
A LIFELONG ADORATION
Teddy was hugging trees from the day he was first able to climb them. Imagine the most stereotypical room of a boy from an adventure movie: a terrarium of butterflies and crickets, walls filled with dissected insect anatomy, and journals stuffed with notes on plant biology.
Well, that was Teddy. From his earliest years, Teddy was building his collection – just as he continued to do so well into adulthood, with his massive insect assemblages and mounted animal trophies.
Did we just say “mounted animal trophies”? Yes. See, as great of a conservationist as Teddy was, he truly loved the thrill and primal grip of the hunt. Which… as you can guess, could lead to some conflicts of interest.
A CONFLICT OF PASSION
Although Roosevelt loved hunting with an electric intensity, he was a massive proponent of ethical and sustainable hunting. Roosevelt saw a lot of what was wrong in the current economic culture of his time; America was spilling over the brim with rich, natural resources – and the people lapped them up in lavish excess. This gouging of the American heartland was visible, and the near extinction of several animal species alone brought enough heartache to spur Roosevelt into action:
“It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals — not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements…. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.”
BIG PROBLEMS, BIGGER STICK
Teddy watch the pollution and over-hunting creep slowly into every crevice of America’s beautiful countryside… So, as true as ever to his statement, “speak softly, and carry a big stick,” Teddy broke out his Executive Powers as acting President and created The Antiquities Act, the USFS, and the first Federal Bird Reserve.
We’ll spare you all the government politics involved in getting his legislative branch to join in with the creation of his National Parks; just know that – in total – Teddy’s conservation efforts protected nearly 230 million acres of land in the short time he had in office.
That’s… impossible to understate. Can you imagine what 230,000,000 acres of land even looks like? To give you some perspective, Texas has 171 million acres of land. Texas. That’s one massive State.
The environmental changes that Theodore Roosevelt enacted within his time in office are colossal – so colossal that our own conservation efforts may seem fickle at times (our recycle bins seem pretty miniscule in comparison). However, if Teddy could look out at the growing population of concerned and active environmentalists today, we like to think he’d be proud of the legacy he left us. After all, he did leave it all for US. So, let’s continue to live it proudly, and – in some tiny form – for him.
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