A few years back, the late Jim Range and I were trout fishing with Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt IV in Montana. After a morning of fishing in the sun, we found ourselves some shade and began to shoot the breeze. With our backs against a big hay bale, we fell into a conversation about Ted’s illustrious great-grandfather.
“Aren’t we all so fortunate that T.R. set aside 230 million acres of public land for the American people?” I said after a bit.
Before I could continue Ted added, “Yes, and he should have set aside even more!” I was taken aback by his comment and couldn’t help but think that T.R. was speaking through his great-grandson. I don’t believe in challenging spirits from the great beyond, and clearly, conservation is part of the Roosevelt DNA, so I remained silent and thought to myself, ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, now does it?’
I was reminded of that conversation the other day while reading Douglas Brinkley’s book, The Wilderness Warrior, a biography of our 26th president. In the book, Brinkley outlines why Roosevelt often is called the “father of conservation.” During his tenure in office, T.R. set aside or enlarged 150 national forests. He established 51 federal bird preserves, 18 national monuments, five national parks and four national game preserves. As is always the case when I revisit his record, I was in awe and doubly grateful for the legacy T.R. left us all.
Before closing the book, my thoughts drifted back to that warm afternoon in Montana. Ted had made another statement that has stuck with me since that day.
“I believe, as do some historians,” he said, “that if my great grandfather was elected president again in 1912 there would not have been a World War I.
We will never know exactly how many acres of land T.R. may have given us or how many soldiers may have been spared had the old Bull Moose prevailed in the 1912 election. What we can see, however, is the power that one man can have to affect the entire course of history. And in T.R.’s case, we are thankful and proud of this legacy.