President Roosevelt is a classic example of a visionary leader, and his legacy as a protector of America’s natural landscapes proves as much. This February, the United States Forest Service celebrates its 117th year since Teddy Roosevelt founded it in 1905.
The Forest Service serves a dual purpose for the American people. It first and foremost manages a strategic reserve of lumber as a revenue source for the Department of Agriculture, but it is also the overseer of millions of acres of recreational land and a trust of biodiversity and wildlife habitat. The National Forest service evolved from previous forestry organizations and was the product of some of the finest conservation thinkers of the time, many of whom were members of President Roosevelt’s Boone and Crocket Club. Roosevelt’s administration grew to be so far-reaching in the protection of forests that eventually congress moved to limit the presidential powers around conservation. Roosevelt complied and signed the bill into law after moving to protect an additional 16 million acres of forest the night before. Since that day, the Forest Service has evolved into the multipurpose institution we know today. Every year, Forest Service Rangers fight wildfires, help curb the epidemic of drug smuggling and human trafficking and continue the legacy of the woodsmen who first ventured into the American wilderness in search of fortune and freedom.
Our Forest Service is a point of great pride in this country, and its history is indivisibly tied to the history of the American frontier. It provides us with an example of the wisdom of conservation in a time of nearly unstoppable energy to develop every corner of the continent. One of the many exceptional qualities of our country is the sheer amount and diversity of wild acreage. Our National Forests have been the setting for countless memorable adventures, unforgettable experiences, and some of the world’s best campfire cooking. We, as Americans, owe a debt of gratitude to visionaries like President Roosevelt, who knew not only the value of our forests but also the value of leaving them untouched.
President Roosevelt’s legacy is marked by visionary environmental stewardship, heroic patriotism, and political bravery. Whether it was standing up for workers, knowing when to use the big stick abroad (or more importantly, when not to), or cloaking America’s mountains and prairies in federal protection, Roosevelt was an unapologetic American who led from the front. To celebrate the anniversary of our forests, make sure to get outdoors and enjoy our public lands.