Remembering Teddy, a great U.S. president |

Remembering Teddy, a great U.S. president

Common Ground
Bill Kight
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Since today is President’s Day, why not pay honor to my favorite Commander-in-Chief.

Your favorite president may not be the same as mine, and that is bully well fine. Believe me when I say anyone else you might choose could never match up to my hero.

After all, there is no other Chief Executive who has a cuddly toy named after them. There is currently one on my daughter’s bed and also a “Teddy” bear can be found on the bed in the guest room.

I’ve always used the hero label sparingly. For heroes, aside from mythological figures, are after all only human.

It would be good on this day to look at the accomplishments I consider his greatest legacy.

First and foremost in my mind, Theodore Roosevelt was the father of modern conservation. This is most evident in his creation of the Forest Service in 1905.

Yes, some 17.5 million acres of land had already been set aside as “Forest Reserves” in 1891. But it was Roosevelt who had the vision to see these forests properly managed “for the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run.”

Though the quote is from Gifford Pinchot, the first Forest Service Chief, TR appointed him to head the new Forest Service because they shared the same conservation vision.

It would not be an easy task for a fledgling outfit to try and best serve the most people over time. The effort of “caring for the land and serving people,” is still today an immense and complex job.

The idea to reserve forest lands for wise use rather than let them be converted to private use by those rich enough to exploit them was not popular with everyone.

Teddy said it best, “I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the nature 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.”

He put his belief in conservation into action. During his time as President the land managed as forest reserves went from some 43 million acres to around 194 million acres.

Under the Antiquities Act of 1906 he also set aside “for the enjoyment of future generations, 18 national monuments including a large part of the Grand Canyon.

Because of his vision he signed laws that set aside what would later become National Parks managed by the National Park Service, created in 1916 after TR had left the presidency.

With the stroke of his pen he also signed legislation that created the first 51 bird sanctuaries.

The biggest obstacle in his private life that he overcame was the weak health he suffered as a child due to asthma. Maybe that is why I like him so much, as I was afflicted with the same disease growing up and overcame it, too.

Roosevelt believed the best of America’s landscape belonged to us all and preserved more public land than any other president.

With almost years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories and heroes with readers every other week.

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