Theodore Roosevelt was a politician and conservationist. The 26th president of the United States, he used his position to pave the way for environmentalists of the future. He is known for setting aside land for national forests, establishing
wildlife refuges, developing the farmlands of the American West, and advocating protection of natural resources. Throughout his life and work, Roosevelt remained focused on future generations and on the condition of the earth that they would inherit.Roosevelt was born in New York City in 1858. As a child, he was restricted by asthma and general frailty. These conditions pushed him towards physically subdued interests such as the environment. He became a dedicated naturalist, a trait that
remained with him for the rest of his life.
Roosevelt also became interested in politics. He was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1881 and became governor of New York in 1898. As governor, Roosevelt pressed the State Assembly for forest management and encouraged legislators to outlaw the use of feathers for adornment purposes.
In 1900, Roosevelt became Vice-President under President William McKinley. When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Roosevelt became
President of the United States. Elected in his own right in 1904, Roosevelt retained the Presidency until 1909.
While in office, Roosevelt did many things to further the environmental cause. Under the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, Presidents had been given the power to designate public domain for forest reserves. Roosevelt used this law to set aside 150 million acres. He also created 50 wildlife refuges, commencing with
Florida's Pelican Island. In addition, Roosevelt turned much of the arid land of the southwestern United States into farmland. To achieve this longtime goal of his, he worked for Congress to pass the Reclamation Act of 1902. Under this, sixteen major reclamation projects were soon initiated in the southwest.
Roosevelt is remembered for environmental work in other areas as well; these include soil and water conservation, preservation of forests, and areas for recreation. He made many people aware of the conservation issues both through his pioneering work as President and through numerous writings in which he recounted his various environmental expeditions.
Theodore Roosevelt created a strong role model for environmentalists of the
future. He used his political skills to influence people and to help the cause of conservation, consistently focusing on the state the environment and on its effect on future generations.
Roosevelt's Inaugural Address
Theodore Roosevelt National Park