America’s public lands are one of the greatest treasures entrusted to our country’s citizens. From the Rocky Mountains to Florida’s Everglades, the biodiversity and history preserved in our parks carry the stories of the American people, their struggles, and their triumphs. Perhaps one man, more than any other, is to thank for protecting these places.
Theodore Roosevelt was a visionary leader in the conservation of America’s natural resources and the creation of a system that would keep them protected for generations. Originally from New York City, Theodore Roosevelt traveled extensively throughout his life, especially during his time in office as the President. As a prolific hunter and aspiring rancher, Roosevelt even made his home in the badlands of South Dakota for some time.
Roosevelt foresaw the relentless development and pollution occurring across the country as the nation’s population grew and later used his position in the White House to protect much of America’s most compelling natural wonders.
More than 230 million acres of the American West, including new National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests, and new game lands, came under the federal government's protection during Roosevelt’s tenure as the President.
Teddy Roosevelt, along with his sweeping protections western lands, has himself been absorbed into the very mythos of the West and our National Parks. In many ways, President Roosevelt came to embody the march of progress Westward during the century. He also came to express a uniquely American identity found in the wilderness.
Unlike many of our European allies, America’s History was not written in royal palaces or grand cities, and Roosevelt understood that. President Roosevelt recognized the rugged and wild character at the heart of America and felt strongly that it was the very wilderness that our nation had conquered that made us who we were.
The foresight and wisdom required to not only speak but, more importantly, act on environmental protection at the turn of the 20th century are remarkable. While President Roosevelt did not formally found the National Park System, he had perhaps the most significant impact out of any President, certainly at that time, in protecting America's lands, waters, and wildlife. Roosevelt would credit his passion for conservation to his personal adventures in the wilderness, about which he wrote prolifically.
Roosevelt was a common-sense conservationist and provided an example of how good ideas can triumph over blame and shortsightedness and how vision is seldom overcome by selfishness and greed.
There may be no better way to celebrate this year’s National Parks Week than getting outside, looking to President Roosevelt’s example of rugged American Adventure, and enjoying the incredible natural endowment of our country.