Saturday, September 12, 2015

How Explorers Teddy Roosevelt and John Wesley Powell Saved the American West

Our nation's lore of American explorers includes a long list of names, but one of the most prominent names on that list is an American president, Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt.
 How Teddy Roosevelt Saved the West

As the American Museum of Natural History has recorded in great detail, the 26th President of the United States was by far the most adventure loving of American presidents. And without him, we might not have as many of our most beloved national parks that we have today. In fact, the AMNH describes Teddy Roosevelt as a "visionary conservationist." As wrote:
"As president, Roosevelt provided federal protection for almost 230 million acres of land, an area equivalent to the entire Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Florida. He sat aside 150 national forests, the first 51 federal bird reservations, five national parks, the first 18 national monuments, the first four national game preserves and the first 24 reclamation, or federal irrigation, projects, designations that were bitterly opposed by commercial interests. Roosevelt also appointed as the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service the visionary Gifford Pinchot, who shared his philosophy of natural resource conservation through sustainable use, and he convened four study commissions on conservation for policymakers and leading authorities to shape thought about the then-new field of conservation."
Through the 1906 Antiquities Act, Roosevelt set aside 800,000 acres in Arizona, and this became the Grand Canyon National Monument. The Act also brought Yosemite under federal control and created the Yosemite National Park. The Act also included Crater Lake in Oregon and the Anasazi ruins at Mesa Verde, Colorado. These are only a few of the many national monuments, wildlife refuges, and national parks that Roosevelt protected for future generations with his Antiquities Act.

Other Adventures

Although a cataloging of Roosevelt's lifetime adventures would be far too numerous for one article, the shape of his life can be summed up in one sentence: Teddy Roosevelt saw and experienced enough wonders and adventures to fill two or three lifetimes. Besides exploring the American West, Roosevelt spent considerable time in Africa exploring, collecting scientific specimens, and hunting (not for pointless sport, but to collect specimens for naturalists) in the savanna. He also spent time adventuring in Brazil's rainforests. He also had a remarkable military career, in which he built up America's navy and formed the famous Rough Riders volunteer troop that became known for their famous charge up Kettle Hill in Cuba.

Among his many international contributions, he was responsible for making the Panama Canal possible. In 1904, he commanded the canal to be built and, as PBS notes, Roosevelt ordered them to "make the dirt fly" to complete the work as quickly as possible. The Canal transformed the world because it joined, for the first time in history, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Before the Canal, merchants had to travel around the deadly Cape Horn at the bottom of South America to complete trade routes.

John Wesley Powell

According to the New World Encyclopedia, John Wesley Powell made some remarkable first-time explorations of some of the most famous landmarks in the American West. Although Roosevelt was the one who preserved the Grand Canyon as a national monument, John Wesley Powell was the first person to explore the Grand Canyon. In 1869, he led a three-month trip down the Green River and the Colorado River. This famous trip led Powell through the depths of the Grand Canyon.

Through these remarkable journeys, Powell would publish scientific account, make land utilization recommendations to the government, and propose irrigation projects. His reports were influential and helped form the conservation policy that would ultimately preserve the American West for future generations to explore and marvel at, just as he and Teddy Roosevelt had done with great joy during their lifetimes.

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