T.R. & Our National Parks
Theodore Roosevelt was the most unlikely of conservationists. Born in New York City into a wealthy family, he suffering from ill health. But in adversity, T.R. found his strength. At Harvard, he had fallen deeply in love with the beautiful daughter of a prosperous banker. Soon they were married. But in 1884, two days after the birth of their first child, Alice Lee Roosevelt, died of Bright’s disease and complications from childbirth. On that same day, in the same house, T.R.’s mother, Martha, died of typhoid. Roosevelt was inconsolable. His grief was so intense that he left almost immediately after his wife’s death — leaving his new daughter in the care of his elder sister –and headed West. (In 1886, T.R. would marry Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt, the future first lady of the United States.) He almost never referred to Alice Lee (left photo) again for the rest of his life.
T.R. disappeared into the Badlands of the Dakotas, where he had been the previous year for a short hunting trip. He had first gone there seeking adventure and had been enchanted by the landscape and the wildlife, and now, a year later, it was there he found solace. TR invested in two cattle ranches, the Maltese Cross and the Elkhorn. The experience was influential on his life, philosophy, and politics. ”I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota,” he said.
Roosevelt became passionate about camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, exploring.
“A grove of giant redwoods or sequoias should be kept just as we keep a great beautiful cathedral…And to lose the chance to see frigate-birds soaring in circles about the storm, or a file of pelicans winging their way homeward across the crimson afterglow of the sunset, or a myriad of terns flashing in the bright light of midday as they hover in a shifting maze above the beach — why, the loss is like the loss of a gallery of the masterpieces of the artists of old time.”
Teddy Roosevelt became the greatest conservationist in our nation’s history. He created the National Park System, National Forests and the National Wildlife refuge System. In all, President Teddy Roosevelt conserved more than 230 million acres during his presidency.
“We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted…So any nation which in its youth lives only for the day, reaps without sowing, and consumes without husbanding, must expect the penalty of the prodigal whose labor could with difficulty find him the bare means of life.” Theodore Roosevelt — “Arbor Day – A Message to the School-Children of the United States” April 15,
“If you look ahead ten years, you project population growth, car growth, and that means smog growth…water polution….A major goal…for the next ten years for this country must be to restore the cleanliness of the air, the water…also on the broader problems of population congestion, transportation, and the like.”
– President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act on January 1, 1970.
During his presidency, President Bush designated 350,000 square miles of protective sanctuaries; the most monumental protection of the environment since Theodore Roosevelt:
“Since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, there has been a consensus that Americans have a common interest in protecting our natural lands & watersheds. It is our duty to use the lands well, and sometimes not to use them at all. It is our responsibility as citizens, but more than that it is our calling as stewards of the earth.”
– George W. Bush