American Hunter | Theodore Roosevelt and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

by J. Scott Olmsted –
Monday March 15, 2021

Photo credit: George Grantham Bain / Library of Congress

Hundreds of years ago, moose covered the east, in places like the Adirondacks and the Shenandoah Valley. Moose were once the most widespread hoofed mammals in North America. Millions roamed Canada and the United States. In the 19th century, the American bison ruled. It is estimated that up to 40 million of the great shags roamed the plains and steppes of the west before a series of actions destroyed them.

By the end of the 19th century, almost 30 years after the National Rifle Association was founded, moose had been wiped out from the east. Bison had been reduced to a few bands. Other species such as white-tailed and wild turkeys were also almost extinct.

With this in mind, Theodore Roosevelt was born in 1858, our 26th President and perhaps the most forward-thinking hunter who ever lived. American hunters can acknowledge many things, but perhaps the most important of them is to develop and maintain an ethos that a man like Teddy Roosevelt, who became a member of NRA Life, can claim. Among the Library of Congress documents held in the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University is the correspondence dated February 18, 1907 from the 26th President of the United States to then-President of the NRA, General James Andrew Drain, with the following words : “I am so interested in the success of the National Rifle Association of America and its work with the National Board in Promoting Rifle Practice that I am hereby sending you my check for $ 25 for lifetime membership. “

It was like Teddy – always a leader.

Photo by Philip B. Stewart

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Roosevelt was born into wealth that enabled him to explore nature from a romantic standpoint, unlike the hill men and pioneers who populated the American west. Perhaps as a result of this, he developed a fascination with the American bison that led to his first bison hunt in Little Cannonball Creek, Montana, in 1883. After his success he danced enthusiastically for his killing. In 1889, after killing his second bison, he was less confident: “… mixed with the hunter’s eager excitement was a certain semi-melancholy feeling as I gazed at this bison, which was itself part of the last remnant of a convict and almost disappeared race. Few men now have the chance to see the mightiest American beast in all its fierce might, surrounded by the immense devastation of its distant mountain home. “

Such thoughts could well be seen as the basis for Roosevelt’s actions over the next 20 years as he and his contemporaries developed the truly American concept of conservation, the wise use of all of our great natural resources.

In 1887, Roosevelt advocated the need to legislate for wildlife hunting when he co-founded the Boone and Crockett Club with George Bird Grinnell, Madison Grant, and others, which advocated the conservation of wildlife devoted to scientific records and fairness. Chase hunt. With this in mind, in a speech to Congress in 1907, he urged Americans to increase the utility of our country, for this goal was the key to the prosperity of future generations. The club continues to support conservation today on the premise that humanity must find ways to balance wildlife, agriculture, and commercial development as wildlife habitat is shrinking due to increasing and conflicting land use practices.

Roosevelt worked with John Muir, one of the earliest proponents of the formation of our national park system and founder of the Sierra Club. At a now famous moment, Roosevelt and Muir camped in Yosemite Valley in 1903 when and where Muir convinced Roosevelt to put the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove back under federal protection as part of the formation of Yosemite National Park.

Roosevelt was best known to work with Gifford Pinchot, a leading American environmental advocate at the turn of the 20th century. From 1890 to 1910, Pinchot raised forestry to the level of national discourse and in 1905 became the first chief of the United States Forest Service under President Roosevelt, who ran the department on the premise: “The greatest good of the greatest number in the long run. ”

In Roosevelt’s era, our number of national forests with Pinchot’s advocacy rose from 32 in 1898 to 149 in 1910, for a total of 193 million acres. In total, during his tenure as the 26th President from 1901 to 1909, Roosevelt reserved 240 million acres as national parks, forests, monuments and sanctuaries for wildlife. The laws enacted during his presidency and the legal and financial framework that have since been developed in our national policy for the protection of wildlife and the wilderness it roams are now referred to as the North American model of nature conservation. This model is based on “seven pillars”:

Wildlife is a resource that is kept in public trust. It is the people’s responsibility through government to keep wildlife trustworthy for all.

There are no game markets. The public must protect itself from elites who would appropriate wildlife (as has happened in Europe).

Wildlife is allocated through democratic rule of law. Everyone has a fair and equitable opportunity under the law to join the hunt.

Wildlife may only be killed for legitimate purposes– There can be no market shooting.

Wildlife is considered an international resource. The inclusion of species that cross international borders is regulated by contract.

According to the law, everyone has the same opportunities to take part in the hunt. Wealth, prestige or land ownership are not taken into account.

Science is the right instrument to relieve wildlife policy– No capricious electorate voting in the elections.

Consider this: Roosevelt saw the passage of a conservation program as his greatest contribution to American domestic politics. This post is the North American model of conservation, a shining example for the world. This is the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, Hunter, Rough Rider, President, Visionary. This is a man we named a national park for. This is the legacy of an NRA Life member, the father of conservation.

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