It all began with a bison.
While President Teddy Roosevelt was the face of preserving natural, American landmarks and locations, he was still just a man who couldn’t quiet his urge to hunt wild game. (His 622 stuffed birds at the Smithsonian are proof!) Hungry for a new trophy, Teddy set his sights on a bison hunt in North Dakota around 1883. It was there while exploring the Great Plains, Painted Canyons, and Badlands, where the wheels of preservation inspiration began cranking. The experience of observing bison herds gather on the almost endless, Midwest landscape, inspired Roosevelt to consider what he could do to preserve the land and surrounding habitats.
Teddy’s presidential platform allowed him to spotlight the severity of preservation from 1901 till 1909. In fact, while on a speaking tour across America, in 1903, he took a two-week pause to be in the trees, the very ones he said deserved to be, “kept just the way we keep a great, beautiful cathedral.” Teddy spent some time camping in the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite National Parks. He was guided along the Yosemite limits by preservationist and mountain man himself, John Muir, who explained to Roosevelt that the country must view its wildness as something to be treasured and appreciated not harvested and hacked. It was the perfect time to develop policies for the National Park Service.
“The establishment of the National Park Service is justified by considerations of good administration, of the value of natural beauty as a National asset, and of the effectiveness of outdoor life and recreation in the production of good citizenship.” -Theodore Roosevelt
At the helm of the NPS policy development, Roosevelt’s voice made it possible for all Americans to explore and experience the best of natural, untouched America for many generations. 58 protected parks total now! Teddy’s list of preservation achievements is as follows:
- The establishment of the United States Forest Service
- Preservation of 150 national forests
- 51 federal bird reserves
- 4 national game preserves
- 5 national parks (even his own!)
- 18 national monuments
- The signed the 1906 Antiquities Act
- The sealed protection of 230 million acres of public land
- Teddy’s conservation efforts earned him more National Park sites than any other American
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