"I never would
have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North
Theodore Roosevelt. He felt his experiences in the Badlands, initially
as a sportsman hunter, and later as a rancher "took the snob
out of him" and taught him to see people as worthy based on
their character and accomplishments, rather than on their economic
worth, formal education or social standing.
ideas about nature and conservation were also dramatically shaped
by experiences in the west. As a young boy growing up,
Teedie's* head was filled with romantic visions of the wild west where
the huge herds of bison roamed the plains. He imagined of adding a
bison (also called buffalo) to his growing collection, and like many
youngsters of his day, dreamed of hunting big game!
by the time he grew up and first came to the Badlands of North Dakota
in September of 1883, the last larges herd of bison were gone, decimated
by hide hunters and diseases probably introduced by settler's domestic
Before he returned
to his New York home, he joined two other men as partners in the Maltese
Cross Ranch. Now Theodore was in the cattle business. The following
year he continued his partnership in the Maltese Cross, and also established
the Elkhorn open-range ranch as his primary residence in the west.
From this place
he enjoyed the strenuous life, and in later years healed some of the
pain he felt at the loss of his first wife Alice Lee Roosevelt and
his mother on the same day in the same house. Leaving his infant daughter,
also Alice, in the capable hands of his oldest sister Bamie, he left
politics, New York, the socially and economically well to do life
and immersed himself with vigor into the rigorous life of a rancher.
successes, winning the respect of the locals, strengthening his body,
character and soul, and even being selected as a spokesperson for
the cattleman. But he also experienced failure in the ravages of a
harsh winter and the loss of much of his herd representing a large
portion of his imvestments and net worth. He would have to be somewhat
careful of his spending for most of the rest of his life.
years, he increasingly alarmed by the damage that was being done to
the land and its wildlife. Destruction of some big game species by
overhunting, disease and loss of habitat and overgrazing destroying
the grasslands and with them the habitats for small mammals and songbirds
marked him deeply. Conservation now combined with his naturalist inclinations
and increasingly became one of Roosevelt's major concerns.
Always a man
to take action, when he became President in 1901, Roosevelt became
a saviour of natural resources and a pioneer of environmentalism.
He established the U.S. Forest Service and by signing the 1906 Antiquities
Act he proclaimed 18 national monuments. He also obtained Congressional
approval for the establishment of five national parks and 51 wildlife
refuges and set aside land as national forests.
He angered many
who saw potential profit in the large scale development of beautiful
spaces such as the Grand Canyon but perservered crafted ways to preserve
If we remembered
Theodore Roosevelt for no other efforts than these he would be a great
man. Few leaders have provided such a legacy to their countrymen.