Theodore Roosevelt: The Great Environmentalist
This Paper will outline President Theodore Roosevelt’s role in helping to conserve our environment during his administration (1901-1909). It will also examine his theory of
a stronger American democracy through environmental conservationism.
“The movement for the conservation of wildlife, and the larger movement for the
conservation of all our natural resources, are essentially democratic in
spirit, purpose, and method.” (Roosevelt 274)
As president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt made conservation a central policy issue of his administration. He created five National Parks, four Big Game Refuges, fifty-one National bird Reservations, and the National Forest Service. Roosevelt advocated for the sustainable use of the nation's natural resources, the protection and
management of wild game, and the preservation of wild spaces. Considering America's
landscape to be the source of American wealth and the American character, Roosevelt
believed conservationism was a democratic movement necessary to maintain and to
strengthen American democracy.
Roosevelt recognized America's vast natural resources as the source of the country's
economic wealth and subsequent political strength globally. The abundance of land,
timber, waterways, and mineral deposits fueled the continuing expansion of American
industry. In a speech addressed to a national conference on conservation held
at the White House in 1908, Roosevelt stated, "Our position in the world has been attained by the extent and thoroughness of the control we have achieved over nature; but we are more, and not less, dependent upon what she furnishes than at any previous time of history."
(Internet 1) The United States had built its economic and political strength by
exploiting the nation's natural resources; but Roosevelt, like other leading
conservationists, no longer believed that these natural resources were infinite in their
The end of the nineteenth century brought the closing of the frontier, the near extinction of the buffalo, and the extinction of the passenger pigeon. Both species had
symbolized America's endless natural abundance, and their destruction forced many
Americans to question the myth of nature's infinitude. Understanding the finite quality of America's natural resources, Roosevelt felt that the nation's dependency on them could now become the nation's weakness if the reckless and wasteful exploitation of
these resources continued. The conservation and management of the nation's natural
resources was urgently necessary to ensure their future availability. Roosevelt went on
to say in his speech to the conference on conservation, "It is equally clear that these
resources are the final basis for national power and perpetuity." (Internet 1) Concerned about the long term well being of the nation, Roosevelt regarded the land as an economic resource which must be...