The Conservation President
Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States of America. He is a statesman, historian, hunter, Novel Peace Prize winner, conservationist and the youngest person to the top post of the government (Rosoce, 1919). As a young boy, he loves to go to the wild and spend time with the nature. This love of the environment of Roosevelt will stay and will reflect later on through his policies with the environment (Burton, 1997).
Land and Forest
Roosevelt was known to be the first ever United States president that put conservation and the environment as his top priority (King, 1959). His background as a devoted hunter and fisherman guided him on his first conservation policies he enacted. On March 14, 1903, he founded the foremost National Bird Reserve on Pelican Island, Florida. Recognizing forthcoming extinction of the bird specie American Bison, he created the American Bison Society in 1905. On the same year, he pushed the Congress to create the United States Forest Service to preserve forest parks and manage forest lands. In 1907, the Congress planned to block his successful plan to declare 16 million acres as new national forests. Lumber companies operating in the areas will now be restricted and monitored on their operations. Roosevelt was known to setting aside more than 194 million acres of land as national parks and natural preserves, land area that are more than all of those created combined by all of his predecessors (King, 1959). Through out his presidency, he declared 5 national parks namely Wind Cave, South Dakota; Crater Lake, Oregon; Sully’s Hill, North Dakota: Mesa Verde, Colorado; and Platt National Park, Oklahoma. There are also more than 150 new forest parks declared by Roosevelt, an increase of almost 400% from his predecessor (Theodore Roosevelt Association, 2009). In 1908, he convened the Conference of Governors that was held in the White House. The conference put the conservation efforts of the president into public fame. It aims to efficiently plan conservation steps on water, forest and other natural resources. By 1909, his administration managed to convert and create 42 million acres of national forests, with national wildlife refuges that numbered to 53 (King, 1959).
On December 3, 1901 Roosevelt declared that the forests and water problems are the major internal problems that the United States should deal with. He believed that the country lacks environmental policies and legislations to protect the water, forest and farm lands. On March 3, 1903, Roosevelt vetoes a bill that would allow a major private company to develop and create water power facilities at Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It was the first exercise of executive power concerning the environment of Roosevelt. His veto of the bill presupposed the federal control over state control of water canals and navigable streams all over the country (Burton, 1997). Roosevelt created the Inland Waterways Commission on March 14, 1907. It aims to control flood on rivers and streams that resulted from human intervention of its natural flows. The Commission was created to conduct a comprehensive study among the country’s rivers and streams and propose broad plan to conserve, develop and utilize the rivers for the use of the majority of the Americans (King, 1959). On January 15, 1909, Roosevelt vetoes another bill of the congress that authorizes a private company to create a water dam on the James River in Stone County, Missouri. Roosevelt explains this move that congress should look into the general public’s welfare rather than giving a special privilege among few people (Roscoe, 1919). Before his term ends, Roosevelt invited 45 nations to convene as a world conservation congress at The Hague. But the plan did not push through after he left the White House. Roosevelt declared 16 rivers, comprising a million and a half acre of land as public domain. This is to protect the people’s right over these lands and rivers from abuse of private corporations and individuals. This is the last executive act done by Roosevelt before leaving the post (King, 1959).
The Antiquities Act was considered to be the first national historical preservation policy in the United States. This was the result of Roosevelt’s conservation background leading him on preservation not only natural resources and forest parks but also sites that are scientifically and archeologically important for the country (Theodore Roosevelt Association, 2009). The Antiquities Act gave way for the president declaring and creating national monuments. Such declarations are through presidential proclamation and no longer needs the approval of the Congress. During the whole term of Roosevelt as President, he declared 18 monuments throughout the country using the said Act. This Act also gave way for other presidents to declare hundreds more of monuments (Thompson, 2000).
Roosevelt is indeed considered as the Conservationist President of the United States. His conservation and environmental policies were a major breakthrough against his predecessors. He put the protection of the environment a public issue and major federal responsibility. His major presidential proclamations and policies laid down the foundation on conservation movements during his time. Through his efforts, his successors were either influenced by him or pressured by the people to do the same policies for the future Americans.
Burton, D. (1997). Theodore Roosevelt, American Politician: An Assessment. Madison, NJ:
King, J. (1959). The Conservation Fight: From Theodore Roosevelt to the Tennessee Valley
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Roscoe, W. (1919). An Intimate Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Theodore Roosevelt Association. (2009). Theodore Roosevelt: Our Nation’s Greatest
Conservation President. Nature Conservancy’s Journey With Nature. Retrieved April 16, 2009, from http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/
Thompson, R. (2000). Part One: The Antiquities Act of 1906 by Ronald Freeman Lee.
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