03 February 2009

Humans in Nature: Theodore Roosevelt, Conservationist

By Eliza Tucker

Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Riding trust buster American President, is renowned for his love of the outdoors and his legacy of environmental conservation still thrives today.

As a child, Roosevelt suffered from severe asthma, and was frequently ill. His parents were both tough and wise, and, once his health stabilized a little, decided to make sure young "Teedie" (as he was called then) spent much time out-of-doors, engaged in physical activity. To provide a place for him to remain active in poor weather, his father built a gymnasium in their home.

Roosevelt fell in love with outdoors, so much that, on his wedding trip to Europe with new bride Alice, he even climbed the Matterhorn. But when Alice and his mother died on the same day--Alice of liver failure after the delivery of their first daughter two days before; Mittie of typhoid--Teddy retreated into the wilderness, quite literally.

Roosevelt built a ranch in the Badlands of the Dakota Territory, where he got to know the West for all its wonders and dangerous, and learned Western riding, ranching, and all it entailed. As a deputy sheriff, his skills increased. The winter storm of 1886-1887 took out most of the animals on his ranch, and so he returned to New York where he engaged in politics.

Roosevelt served on the New York City police board, then as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Later he founded the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment during the Spanish-American War in Cuba, then won the title of Governor of New York and finally Vice President under William McKinley. After McKinley's murder, Roosevelt stepped into the role as president, but he could not forget the things he loved: the outdoors, physical activity, nature and animals.

By his term as president at the turn of the twentieth century,

**Forests throughout the country were depleted; some estimates indicated that only about 20 percent of the original woodlands remained in 1900
**Much of the nation's farmland, particularly in the South and East, had been exhausted by overuse and was marginally productive
**Extractive industries such as oil, gas, and minerals were proceeding at an unfettered pace
**Water rights were increasingly coming under the control of private parties, who often operated without concern for flood control or the preservation of natural features.

Roosevelt pushed legislation that would oversee the way America took care of its territory, and the 1902 Newlands Act brought the federal government into a position where it could better maintain and manage the nation's water.

In 1903, Roosevelt founded the National Bird Reserve, and later realized the extinction of American bison was near, and founded the American Bison Society. During his term, he set aside 194 million square miles for national parks and wildlife reserves.