Before entering politics, Theodore Roosevelt aspired to be a naturalist. The 26th president’s love of nature was bolstered by hunting trips and time spent ranching in the Dakotas before his presidency.
Among Roosevelt’s key accomplishments as a conservationist are the establishment of federal protection for almost 230 million acres of land, 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reservations, five national parks, and 18 national monuments.
Here are 10 enduring presidential quotes on conservation from the man who is represented on Mt. Rushmore.
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• "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."
• "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."
• "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."
• "It is an incalculable added pleasure to any one's sum of happiness if he or she grows to know, even slightly and imperfectly, how to read and enjoy the wonder-book of nature."
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• "The lack of power to take joy in outdoor nature is as real a misfortune as the lack of power to take joy in books."
• "I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."
• "Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us."
• "There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm."
• "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased; and not impaired in value."
• "Conservation means development as much as it does protection."
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