Wikipedia: "Theodore Roosevelt"

Read this short except from the entry for Theodore Roosevelt from Wikipedia. Pay particular attention to the Conservation section, and note the key achievements made in this area. Take time to consider how different the American landscape might look today if some of the conservation efforts and laws enacted by Roosevelt had not been implemented.

Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was an American statesman and writer who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909. He also served as the 25th vice president of the United States from March to September 1901, and as the 33rd governor of New York from 1899 to 1900.

As a leader of the Republican Party during this time, Roosevelt became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States in the early 20th century. His face is depicted on Mount Rushmore, alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. In polls of historians and political scientists, Roosevelt is generally ranked as one of the five best presidents.

Roosevelt was born a sickly child with debilitating asthma, but he overcame his physical health problems by embracing a strenuous lifestyle. He integrated his exuberant personality, vast range of interests, and world-famous achievements into a "cowboy" persona defined by robust masculinity. Home-schooled, he began a lifelong naturalist avocation before attending Harvard College.

His book, The Naval War of 1812 (1882), established his reputation as a learned historian and popular writer. Upon entering politics, he became the leader of the reform faction of Republicans in New York's state legislature. Following the near-simultaneous deaths of his wife and mother, he escaped to a cattle ranch in the Dakotas.

Roosevelt served as assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy under President William McKinley, but resigned from that post to lead the Rough Riders during the Spanish–American War. Returning a war hero, he was elected governor of New York in 1898. After the death of Vice President Garret Hobart, the New York state party leadership convinced McKinley to accept Roosevelt as his running mate in the 1900 election. Roosevelt campaigned vigorously, and the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket won a landslide victory based on a platform of peace, prosperity, and conservation.

After taking office as vice president in March 1901, he became president at age 42 following McKinley's assassination that September, and remains the youngest person to become president of the United States. As a leader of the Progressive Movement, he championed his "square deal" domestic policies, promising the average citizen fairness, breaking of trusts, regulation of railroads, and pure food and drugs. Making conservation a top priority, he established many new national parks, forests, and monuments intended to preserve the nation's natural resources. In foreign policy, he focused on Central America, where he began construction of the Panama Canal.

He expanded the Navy and sent the Great White Fleet on a world tour to project the United States' naval power around the globe. His successful efforts to broker the end of the Russo-Japanese War won him the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize. He avoided controversial tariff and money issues. Elected in 1904 to a full term, Roosevelt continued to promote progressive policies, many of which were passed in Congress. Roosevelt successfully groomed his close friend, William Howard Taft, and Taft won the 1908 presidential election to succeed him.

Frustrated with Taft's conservatism, Roosevelt belatedly tried to win the 1912 Republican nomination. He failed, walked out and founded a third party, the Progressive, so-called "Bull Moose" Party, which called for wide-ranging progressive reforms. He ran in the 1912 election and the split allowed the Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson to win the election. Following his defeat, Roosevelt led a two-year expedition to the Amazon basin, where he nearly died of tropical disease. During World War I, he criticized President Wilson for keeping the country out of the war with Germany, and his offer to lead volunteers to France was rejected. Though he had considered running for president again in 1920, Roosevelt's health continued to deteriorate, and he died in 1919.

Conservation

Of all Roosevelt's achievements, he was proudest of his work in conservation of natural resources, and extending federal protection to land and wildlife. Roosevelt worked closely with Interior Secretary James Rudolph Garfield and Chief of the United States Forest Service Gifford Pinchot to enact a series of conservation programs that often met with resistance from Western members of Congress such as Charles William Fulton.

Nonetheless, Roosevelt established the United States Forest Service, signed into law the creation of five National Parks, and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which he proclaimed 18 new U.S. National Monuments. He also established the first 51 bird reserves, four game preserves, and 150 National Forests. The area of the United States that he placed under public protection totals approximately 230,000,000 acres (930,000 km2).

Roosevelt extensively used executive orders on a number of occasions to protect forest and wildlife lands during his tenure as President. By the end of his second term in office, Roosevelt used executive orders to establish 150 million acres of reserved forestry land. Roosevelt was unapologetic about his extensive use of executive orders to protect the environment, despite the perception in Congress that he was encroaching on too many lands. Eventually, Senator Charles Fulton (R-OR) attached an amendment to an agricultural appropriations bill that effectively prevented the president from reserving any further land.

Before signing that bill into law, Roosevelt used executive orders to establish an additional 21 forest reserves, waiting until the last minute to sign the bill into law. In total, Roosevelt used executive orders to establish 121 forest reserves in 31 states. Prior to Roosevelt, only one president had issued over 200 executive orders, Grover Cleveland (253). The first 25 presidents issued a total of 1,262 executive orders; Roosevelt issued 1,081.

Africa and Europe (1909–1910)

In March 1909, shortly after the end of his presidency, Roosevelt left New York for the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition, a safari in east and central Africa. Roosevelt's party landed in Mombasa, British East Africa (now Kenya) and traveled to the Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) before following the Nile to Khartoum in modern Sudan.

Financed by Andrew Carnegie and by his own writings, Roosevelt's party hunted for specimens for the Smithsonian Institution and for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The group, led by the hunter-tracker RJ Cunninghame, included scientists from the Smithsonian, and was joined from time to time by Frederick Selous, the famous big game hunter and explorer. Participants on the expedition included Kermit Roosevelt, Edgar Alexander Mearns, Edmund Heller, and John Alden Loring.

Roosevelt and his companions killed or trapped approximately 11,400 animals, from insects and moles to hippopotamuses and elephants. The 1,000 large animals included 512 big game animals, including six rare white rhinos. Tons of salted animals and their skins were shipped to Washington; it took years to mount them all, and the Smithsonian shared many duplicate specimens with other museums.

Regarding the large number of animals taken, Roosevelt said, "I can be condemned only if the existence of the National Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and all similar zoological institutions are to be condemned". He wrote a detailed account of the safari in the book African Game Trails, recounting the excitement of the chase, the people he met, and the flora and fauna he collected in the name of science.

After his safari, Roosevelt traveled north to embark on a tour of Europe. Stopping first in Egypt, he commented favorably on British rule of the region, giving his opinion that Egypt was not yet ready for independence, paralleling his views about the Philippines. He refused a meeting with the Pope due to a dispute over a group of Methodists active in Rome, but met with Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, King George V of Great Britain, and other European leaders.

In Oslo, Norway, Roosevelt delivered a speech calling for limitations on naval armaments, a strengthening of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the creation of a "League of Peace" among the world powers. He also delivered the Romanes Lecture at Oxford, in which he denounced those who sought parallels between the evolution of animal life and the development of society.

Though Roosevelt attempted to avoid domestic politics during his time abroad, he met with Gifford Pinchot, who related his own disappointment with the Taft Administration. Pinchot had been forced to resign as head of the forest service after clashing with Taft's Interior Secretary, Richard Ballinger, who had prioritized development over conservation. Roosevelt returned to the United States in June 1910.

Last modified: Wednesday, February 13, 2019, 11:19 AM