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United States Forest Service

People often imagine that Theodore Roosevelt started the National Park system, but it actually began much sooner. On this date in 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law.

However, Roosevelt did create five national parks doubling the number, and he’s known as the “Conservation President.” He protected over 230 million acres of public land, setting aside 150 national forests, the five national parks, America’s first 18 national monuments, the first 51 federal bird refuges, and our first game preserves.

Roosevelt also initiated the United States Forest Service in association with friend and conservation mentor, Gifford Pinchot, the nation’s first professional forester.  An insight into Roosevelt’s moral character is how he often gave credit to those within his learning circle of experts and advisors.

“Wise forest production does not mean the withdrawal of forest resources, whether of wood, water or grass, from contributing their full share to the welfare of the people. The fundamental idea of forestry is the perpetuation of forests by use. Forest production is not an end of itself; it is a means to increase and sustain the resources of our country and the industries which depend upon them. I have doubled or quadrupled the forest reserves of the country; and I may add as a small incident, have created a number of reservations for preserving the wild things of nature – the beasts and the birds as well as the trees. Gifford Pinchot is the man to whom the nation owes most of what had been accomplished as regards the preservation of the natural resources of our country. He was the foremost leader in the great struggle to coordinate all our social and governmental forces in the effort to secure the adoption of a rational and far-seeing policy for securing the conservation of all our natural resources. Among the many, many public officials who under my administration rendered literally invaluable service to the people of the United States, he, on the whole, stood first! Conservation and rural-life policies are really two sides of the same policy, and at bottom this policy rests upon the fundamental law that neither man nor nation can prosper unless, in dealing with the present, thought is steadily taken for the future.”

Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

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