The Role of Theodore Roosevelt in Conservation

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At some point in life, the natural resources that we are enjoying will become depleted and the next generation may not have something to enjoy. Although it is not exactly known when this will happen, we are aware of the approximate amounts of the natural resources that are currently available.  Environmental and resource conservation is vital because we want to be sure that these resources can be kept available for the longest period possible and ensure they are put to good use. For example, the lithium mineral, which is used to make battery, is becoming rare by the day. As such, it is imperative to ensure that the little that remains is conserved to ensure that the country does not run out of the raw material for making car batteries.

            Conservation is also critical to the environment. Logging, mining, and other methods of resource extraction are extremely disastrous to the environment. Mining gets rid of the topsoil, ruins the ecosystem, and relapses toxins into the environment.  The more resources that can be conserved by recycling or reducing usage, the less the earth’s ecosystem will be ruined.

            President Theodore Roosevelt established his legacy as the conservationist president. Fascinated by nature from a tender age, he adored and promoted America’s wildlife and landscape. Upon taking over office in 1901, he used the authority bestowed upon him to create one hundred and fifty national parks, fur game reserves, fifty one federal bird reserves, and several national monuments on millions of acres of public land. Theodore Roosevelt came to Badlands in 1883. For the most part of his life, he was a sportsman-hunter and sought an opportunity to hunt the North America’s big game before they become depleted. Despite the fact that his writings talk about several hunting trips and successful captures, they are mixed with lamentation about the loss of habitat and species.

            In the early stages of the twentieth century, President Roosevelt was a vibrant force in a new movement referred to as conservationism. During his stint as the president, Roosevelt prioritized conservation as a significant component of his administration. As the world was ushering in the ne century, the frontier was disappearing. Some of the animals that were initially common become endangered (Dorsey 11). Several Americans, including the president, saw a need to ensure that the country’s natural resources were preserved. Roosevelt wanted to safeguard the land and animals from businesses that he considered a threat. In one of his speeches, he reiterated that the public’s rights to the nation’s natural resources outweighed the individual rights, and should be given the priority. Theodore Roosevelt through executive orders, strong personality and laws, opened the eye of the nation to the world’s natural wonders.

Establishment of Public Lands       

During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt played a key role in establishing and safeguarding the public land. For instance, he helped create approximately 230 million acres of public land. The largest proportion of the land was marked as national forests. The present day USFS was also created by President Roosevelt in 1905 It is an organization within the agricultural department. The main aim was to conserve the forests to support the future generations and facilitate continued use. A staunch protector of the nation’s resources, Roosevelt as dedicated to ensuring the sustainability of the country’s resources.  He also established the federal bird service, and created nearly fifty one of them in his term as the president.  The reserves that were created are the present-day national wildlife refuge, under the management of the United States. Fish and Wildlife Service. Currently, every state has a national world refuge day, and North Dakota has more refuges than any other state in the whole country.

            The national park system also grew considerably during the administration of President Roosevelt. The national park service was established in 1916, approximately seven years after Roosevelt left office. At the time, the organization had approximately thirty five sites to be managed. Out of this number, twenty three were created during Roosevelt’s stint in office.  National parks are created through an act of Congress. Prior to 1916, they were under the management of the Interior Secretary. President Roosevelt worked in conjunction with the legislative branch of government to create several sites including Crater Lake National Park, Sullys Hill, Wind Cave National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and several others.

            The Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities was signed into law by Roosevelt in 1906. This la gave the president the authority to announce through declaration prehistoric structures, historic landmarks, and other objects that have a scientific or historic connotation to be National Monuments. Since this did not require the approval of the Congress, Roosevelt was able to create national monuments easier as compared to the national museums (Patnership 6). Some of the examples of the national monuments that were created by Theodore Roosevelt include Devil’s Tower, El Morro, Montezuma Castle, Chaco Canyon, Lassen Peak, Petrified Forest, and several others.

            Roosevelt stressed the fact that public land belonged to all Americans and it was upon them to ensure that the same is conserved. He urged the citizens of the United States to do all within their capability in the fight to safeguard the country’s threated heritage. His idea was democratic and noble and resonated with the human requirement to be in majesty and awe. The idea stemmed from the early settlers, who migrated to the United States to run ay from the class system in Europe that discriminated against them in the allocation of land.  The idea of conservation was conceptualized by the foresters and hunters as a national effort that the country’s timber and game were not boundless, and necessitated management from the national level to continue being beautiful (Friedenberg 26). It was a hard-on national philosophy. Ranging from the field battles for their very own existence the public lands in the United States were infused with national sanction and moral standing; the belief that they belonged to all the Americans.

            Although the belief is still alive across the country and among many Americans, there is a threat from the communities staying in these lands who fear that they may be disposed of their lands. The people in the rural areas also have a feeling that they are being regulated in how to use and stay on their land to satisfy the urban notions with regards to it.  They believe that their concerns have been overpowered by the urban environmental activist groups who have little knowledge about their lives. Majority of the federal lands are found in what are known as public land states. The people living in these lands must acknowledge the fact that their actions have an impact on others, and urban citizens are reliant on the rural for passive ecosystem and resource benefits that are provided by their good stewardship.

Roosevelt’s Speeches on Conservation

            With just one speech, Theodore Roosevelt completely changed the way nature was viewed by many Americans. During has speech at the opening of the 1908 conference of governors, he transformed the national conversation with regards to resource use. He is remembered for some of his lines, such as “talk softly and carry a big stick.” “The person who really matters in the world is the one who does something, not the one who criticizes (Roosevelt).” He was also a conservationist and ensured that his skills were used in the conservation efforts.  During the conference of governors, President Roosevelt met with state leaders and other conservation authorities from different parts of the nation to discuss what ought to be done with the Natural resources that the country had. He initiated the conference with a speech entitled, “Conservation as National Duty (Roosevelt).” He stressed during his speech that conservation is the primary question that humans are confronted with, and that it was only second to the essential question of morality. According to him, Americans had become better in the sense of material due to the lavish way in lavish manner in which the country’s resources were used (Sheffield 91)_. Roosevelt stressed that he had good reasons to be proud of what the Americans had done in relation to the conservation of resources.

            Roosevelt stated that it was time to seriously think about what will happen when the country’s forests are depleted; when the iron, the coal and the gas all become exhausted, when the rivers are all polluted, when the fertile soil is washed into the rivers, and when navigation is obstructed because of pollution in the rivers and other water bodies (Roosevelt 26). He said that these natural calamities could be avoided by planning ahead. One outstanding trait of civilized people is foresight.  There is urgent need to exercise foresight for the country to prosper in the future.

            As a frontiersman and a historian, Roosevelt clearly comprehended the importance of the social pressures that he was fighting against by highlighting the fact that resource used should be limited. For several years, many people worshipped the concept of a God-given virgin land that they owned- a fact that enabled them to use the land without any restrictions and misuse it in the process for profit, survival, and as a means to fathom the identity  of the Americans (King  15).

            Roosevelt’s speech during the conference opening was a vital moment in conservation. The speech placed conservation in a manner that reassessed the past actions in the United States and foretold its probable future if there was no conservation of nature. It captivated national attention, and caused profound transformations in the attitude of Americans with regards to conservation.  The most vital contribution of the speech as making conservation to appear like public responsibility and not private, as well moral instead of economic issue. By attributing conservation to civilization themes, morality and American patriotism, President Roosevelt redirected the conservation issue from the private use of resources to a public responsibility with regards to the future of the United States (Burns 9). The themes was improved upon in the President’s State of the Union addresses later in the year.

            During his speech at Grand Canyon, Arizona in 1903, he preaches his conservation efforts to the citizens. He notes that is it his first visit to Arizona and asks them to take responsibility in preserving the Grand Canyon. For example, he asks those present to leave the Canyon as it is as they cannot improve on it. All through, his speech is laced with conservation messages as he constantly urges the citizens to take responsibility for preserving the environment for the betterment of the future generations.

            When laying the cornerstone of gateway to Yellowstone National Park, President Roosevelt continues with his conservation messages (Roosevelt).  He begins his speech by thanking the people of Montana, more so those employed in the park for facilitating his smooth holiday during the two weeks that he was there. Roosevelt praises the Yellowstone Park as something that is entirely unique in the world. He reiterates that such a beautiful park is only made accessible to all in the United States and not any other part of the world. He advocates for the preservation of the scenery of the wilderness as well as the wild creatures that are present in the park (Roosevelt). The establishment and preservation of such great natural playground should be responsibility of all Americans according to President Roosevelt.

            He reiterates that the park was established and managed for the benefit and enjoyment of the community and not private individuals or entities. Regrettably, the park as getting many visitors from Europe compared to the Native Americans. Roosevelt reaffirmed that the local communities will realize the beauty of the park and start appreciating it. The people of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and those living in the immediate outskirts of the park were thanked for their cooperation with the relevant authorities to ensure that the park as nit destroyed and vandalized (Roosevelt 11). Roosevelt stated that the appreciation for the local community was because of their cooperation and their acknowledgement that the park was being maintained for the benefit if everyone.

            Forest preservation is a matter of significant importance in all public reserves of the nature of Canyon. Acknowledging that the area had challenges with water supply, Roosevelt stressed that the congress had passed the irrigation bill and that this would play a vital role in preserving the forests, which are the main sources of the water supply. Montana, for instance, was said to have in its water power a development source which was yet to be touched. The water power would be greatly impacted if the forests do not get ample protection. Thus, the park, like other forest reserves, was of the major importance to those living around it.

            He reaffirmed that the park should also be preserved because of its unique features as an attractive natural playground. This will ensure that all the endangered species of the old days are preserved for the betterment and enjoyment of the children and other generations to come. The conservation pleasure can be maintained for love the adventure. He closed his speech by reaffirming that the imperative feature in the current management of the Yellowstone Park, as with other similar natural resources, is its vital democracy in the preservation of forests and scenery of the wilderness game and forests for the public as a whole rather than leaving it to be enjoyed by a few rich people.

Lifelong Passion for the Wilderness

            As a young man, Theodore Roosevelt had always aspired to be a naturalist and a scientist who celebrations nature and what it has to offer. When living in Dakota Territory, he came into firsthand contact with how the environment could be harmed and degraded by human activities. With the building of the transcontinental railroad on 1868, civilization had moved to the west and the towns and rail lines that were built around these area cut through the grazing lands of wildlife animals.  The buffalo, for instance, was being hunted on a larger scale because of its highly valued hides, and with the railway it was now easy to transport the hides to the market.

            Within two decades, the great buffalo that was once abundant across the plains was almost becoming extinct, with a few herds seen strolling across the plains where many herds used to darken the prairie to the limit of the eye. By 1893, when Roosevelt wrote about them, there were less than five hundred wild buffalo, and a herd of 100 had not been seen for a long time.

            Theodore Roosevelt, a passionate adventurer and fan of nature, devoted himself to the protection of both natural resources and wildlife. He acknowledged the fact that without swift action, the incomparable landscaped and rich natural resources of our nation would become extinct as fast as the wild buffalo has become, leaving the generations to come with no legacy of natural splendor. He appointed Gifford Pinchot as the first chief of forest service in the United States.  Pinchot shared the same mindset of conservation of natural resources through responsible use.  Roosevelt’s comments during the conference on the natural resource conservation reiterated his passion and vision about the need to conserve the natural resources that are around us. He stressed the fact that the issue of conservation does not only relate to the next generation or century.

            Ever since he was a child, Theodore Roosevelt already had a deep passion for the natural history and the love for the outdoors. Upon becoming president in 1901, many people expected him to use his lifelong love for the wilderness to craft public policy (Philippon 42).  When he took over as the president, it was an unusual environmental moment. The United States was in the middle of nature renaissance. An expanding nature study movement, increased reading of various authors such as the naturalist John Burroughs, and reducing costs of transportation all promoted amateur exploration of nature. On the contrary, the industrial America was also invading the wild landscapes, and some unique species were getting extinct. At this point, what the nation required was a string leader to guide the attitude of the citizens towards wildlife and nature conservation.

            Theodore Roosevelt’ infectious passion for wild place and wildlife could be his most lasting legacy, moving on through legislation and policy. He designed several national parks and created many monuments. He also rolled out programs that would ensure the protection of millions of acres of public land. Currently, many scientists from various research centers benefit directly from the conservation work of President Roosevelt in their study of various animal and plant species.

Writings on Preservation of Nature

            More than a Millenium ago, Roosevelt was so much worried about how to sustain the natural resources. The advantage is that he was the president when he advocated for conservation, and hence carried a big stick. Also, he was much informed about what he was talking about. That is how he acquired appreciation for the vulnerability of the country’s land, wildlife, and water.  Roosevelt was aware that the pressure on natural resources would increase with the rise in human population (Philippon 42).  He wrote several books on conservation of the natural resources and his dedication to the conservation of natural resources helped create a precedent at a critical time in the history of the country. When many people thought that the country’s resources were still inexhaustible, Roosevelt considered them something to be cherished and protected (Philippon 45). In one of his writings, he says that is wantonly to allow the destruction or destroy what is attractive in nature irrespective pf whether it is a species of bird or mammal, forest, or cliff.  In the United States, the streams and rivers are turned into dumping grounds and sewers, the forest is destroyed, the air is polluted, and birds, mammals, and fish are exterminated.

            He writes in one his books that the conservation and adequate use of the natural resources establish the fundamental issue which inspires almost every other issue of the national life. Unless we are able to maintain a sufficient material basis of the nation’s civilization, then it would be difficult to maintain the institutions which we take out pride in. Patriotic is a good moral issue, because it entails the patriotic duty of guaranteeing the safety and continuance of the country.

Conservation Commandment

            An excerpt of Theodore Roosevelt’s speech during the opening if the Grand Canyon in 1903 can be thought of as a conservation commandment to the citizens (Brinkley and Holland 17). He asked the citizens to maintain the great wonder of nature in the exact shape that it was at the moment. Roosevelt said that he hoped that the locals would not build anything, not a hotel or a summer cottage to block the sublimity, the wonderful grandeur, and the beauty of the canyon. They asked to leave the Canyon as it was as there is nothing more they can improve on it. Th nature has shaped it as it is, and man can only destroy this very beauty.  What the people can do is to ensure that it is kept in good shape for their children, their children’s children, and all the generations that would come.

            With the social imperative playing a vital part in conservation, it became definitely associated with the administrative and political considerations with the natural resource management. Since the private bureaus were identified with the natural resources that they manage and controlled, conservation grew to be a typical principle of the government and the nature regulations. Roosevelt’s address to the government outlined the relationship between efficient resource management and the efficiency of the government. Consequently, the issue of conservation effectively linked the political and scientific goals of the movement to the extent that some people began to associate it with true morality. As a dimension of moral welfare, conservation triggered values of harmony and order with nature. Roosevelt was convinced that true understanding of the conservation principle was sparked by spiritual revelation.


            In conclusion, Theodore Roosevelt is known as a conservationist president because of the role he played in conserving the nation’s natural resources during his tenure as the president. He was much concerned about how the natural resources were being used by citizens and whether the wildlife species would be there for more generations to come. When he became president in 1901, Roosevelt acted to safeguard public land and other natural resources.  Some of his works include the creation of national parks, the establishment of monuments, the establishment of bird reserves, and the protection of public land.

            Conservation was a significant component of Roosevelt’s administration and it is during this time that may conservation commissions were created.  He also worked closely with congress to pass laws that would give him powers to have control over conservation issues. One of the laws gave him direct powers to designate monuments without prior approval of the congress. This was a milestone in his conservation journey.

            We can learn a lot from the conservation efforts by Roosevelt. His efforts paid off as many Americans are now able to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the land and wildlife that they fought so hard to protect. The current generation and administration can borrow a leaf from the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt and ensure that we conserve the natural habitat that we have. Many scientists have also benefited from the conservation work of Theodore. Some of the peculiar animal and plant species that the use in their research today were conserved by Theodore Roosevelt. Probably they would not be available today if Roosevelt had not taken this initiative. Americans should take advantage of this achievement by taking their children to some of the best parks and boatful scenery that the country boasts of.

Works Cited

Brinkley, Douglas, and Dennis Holland. The wilderness warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the crusade for America. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

Burns, James MacGregor. Roosevelt. Secker & Warburg, 1956.

Dorsey, Leroy G. "The frontier myth in presidential rhetoric: Theodore Roosevelt's campaign for conservation." Western Journal of Communication (includes Communication Reports)59.1 (1995): 1-19.

Friedenberg, Robert V. “Theodore Roosevelt and Rhetoric of Militant Decency.” Greenwood Press, 1990.

King, Judson. "The conservation fight; from Theodore Roosevelt to the Tennessee Valley Authority." The conservation fight; from Theodore Roosevelt to the Tennessee Valley Authority. (1959).

Patnership, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation. "Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership." Sign (2011).

Philippon, Daniel J. Conserving words: How American nature writers shaped the environmental movement. University of Georgia Press, 2005.

Roosevelt, Theodore. "Conservation as a national duty." Proceedings of a Conference of Governors in the White House, May 13‐15. 1908.

Roosevelt, Theodore. "New Nationalism Speech." Teaching American History. http://teachingamericanhistory. org/library/document/new-nationalism-speech/(accessed June 8, 2013) (1910).

Sheffield, Jessica. "THEODORE ROOSEVELT," CONSERVATION AS A NATIONAL DUTY"(13 May 1908)." Voices of Democracy 5 (2010): 89-108.

August 21, 2023




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