Theodore Roosevelt and Conservation

"We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune." Theodore Roosevelt


Theodore Roosevelt first came to the badlands in September 1883. The prospect of big game hunting had initially brought him to the West, but, by the time he arrived, the last large herds of bison were gone, having been decimated by hide hunters and disease. As time passed and he was able to spend more time in the area, he became increasingly alarmed by the damage that was being done to the land and its wildlife. He witnessed the virtual destruction of some big game species. Overgrazing severely impacted the grasslands which also affected the habitats of small mammals and songbirds. Conservation increasingly became one of Roosevelt's main concerns. After he became President in 1901, Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the U.S. Forest Service and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments. During his presidency,Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land.

Theodore Roosevelt was the nation's 26th President and is considered by many to have been our country's "Conservationist President." Here in the North Dakota badlands, where many of his personal concerns first gave rise to his later environmental efforts, Roosevelt is remembered with a national park that bears his name and honors the memory of this great conservationist.

Roosevelt is also represented on Mt. Rushmore (SD). Two of his homes are part of the National Park Service: Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (NY) and Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (NY), as is the site where he was sworn in as president (Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, NY) and a park in Washington D.C., Theodore Roosevelt Island.

"There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children's children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred." Theodore Roosevelt


"We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation." Theodore Roosevelt

"It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals -- not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening." Theodore Roosevelt

TR, after camping in Yosemite National Park: "It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man."

"In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it."

Learn more about how you can help conserve Theodore Roosevelt National Park through the park's Cooperating Associations, the Junior Ranger Program, and by practicing Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.


National Parks and Monuments Established by Theodore Roosevelt

National Parks
Crater Lake National Park (OR) - 1902
Wind Cave National Park (SD)- 1903
Sullys Hill (in ND)- 1904 (now managed by US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Platt National Park (OK) - 1906 (now part of Chickasaw National Recreation Area)
Mesa Verde National Park (CO)- 1906
Also added land to Yosemite National Park

National Monuments
Roosevelt signed the "Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities," also know as the Antiquities Act or the National Monuments Act, on June 8, 1906. The law authorized the President, at his discretion, to "declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic and scientific interest that are situated upon lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be National Monuments."

Devil's Tower - 1906
El Morro - 1906
Montezuma Castle - 1906
Petrified Forest - 1906 (now a National Park)
Chaco Canyon - 1907
Lassen Peak - 1907 (now a National Park)
Cinder Cone - 1907 (now part of Lassen Volcanic National Park)
Gila Cliff Dwellings - 1907
Tonto - 1907
Muir Woods - 1908
Grand Canyon - 1908 (now a National Park) TR fought unsuccessfully to make it a National Park.
Pinnacles - 1908
Jewel Cave - 1908
Natural Bridges - 1908
Lewis & Clark (MT) - 1908 (later given to the state of Montana)
Tumacacori - 1908
Wheeler (Colorado) - 1908 (given to the Forest Service in 1950)
Mount Olympus - 1909 (now Olympic National Park)

Roosevelt also established Chalmette Monument and Grounds in 1907, the site of much of the Battle of New Orleans. It is now a part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park.

If you would like to learn more about these National Parks and Monuments, visit the National Park Service web page ( Many books have been written about Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt, himself, wrote numerous books. For more information on Theodore Roosevelt, visit your local library.

Web page links to more sites on Theodore Roosevelt.

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