Today marks the 150th birthday of Theodore Roosevelt. Considered one of our greatest presidents, it’s not for nothing that he’s on Mount Rushmore and still widely admired around the world. He packed a lot of living into his sixty years. An avid outdoorsman and naturalist, you can add cowboy, cattle rancher, sheriff, big-game hunter, war hero, conservationist, author, explorer, reformer, and Progressive — to name a few — to his list of jobs and accomplishments. He’s known as the “Rough Rider” or the “Trustbuster,” but don’t call him “Teddy” — he didn’t like the name.
We celebrate Roosevelt here at FHS because of his importance to many areas of forest and conservation history. He first published as a naturalist while still in college; most of his publications in the field still hold up well. He was a co-founder of the Boone and Crockett Club, which fought to protect big-game habitats beginning in the 1890s. While governor of New York (1898-1900), he pushed for scientific forest management of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and “also stressed the need for more qualified game wardens and enforcement of game laws, the importance of controlling forest fires, and, true to his ornithological interests, protection of song birds in the state.”* And as U.S. president (1901-09), he built a solid foundation for the conservation and preservation of natural resources, adding millions of acres to the National Forest System, and establishing or expanding numerous national parks and monuments. He also created the wildlife refuge system. In sum, Theodore Roosevelt’s significance in American conservation history cannot be overstated.
Celebrations will take place today at six different national parks or national historic sites that bear Roosevelt’s name or likeness: his birthplace in Manhattan; his home on Long Island, Sagamore Hill; the site of his inauguration in Buffalo, N.Y.; Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands of North Dakota, where he had his cattle ranch; Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota; and Theodore Roosevelt Island in Washington, D.C. The National Park Service will be commemorating his life and accomplishments throughout the coming year at these sites as well as at the parks and the eighteen national monuments he created. Celebrations will also be held at units of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service, founded by Roosevelt in 1903 and 1905 respectively.
In the upcoming issue of Forest History Today, the Biographical Portrait column examines Roosevelt’s place in forest and conservation history. You can also learn a bit about his thinking on conservation policies by reading another article on TR from a past issue of FHT featured in a previous posting. (Yes, he’s THAT important!)
* Brown, David P. “The Conservationist: T. Roosevelt/Pataki Article.” http://www.trthegreatnewyorker.com/Naturalist/nc-c.htm