Since his days as a small boy, Theodore Roosevelt, was captivated by the natural world, especially by the animals. He devoured books – an enthrallment that enhanced his entire life. His later sojourns and retreats to western Dakota Territory, while reveling in cowboy escapades and cattle operations, also provided feet-on-the-ground and eyes-to-the-sky opportunities with nature.
He observed first-hand experience the irresponsible land use and the disregard for nature that was common practice at the time. He found it alarming, but educational. His resolve to further pursue a passion for progressive conservation was honed in the badlands and plains of Dakota. In Outlook Magazine for this week in 1913, he expressed his thoughts:
"The civilized people of today look back with horror at their medieval ancestors who wantonly destroyed great works of art, or sat by slothfully by while they were destroyed. We have passed that age, but we are, as a whole, still in that low state of civilization where we do not understand that it is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature – whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird.
Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds. We pollute the air, we destroy forests and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals – not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements.
But at last it looks as if our people were awakening. Above all we should realize that the effort toward this end is essentially a democratic movement! Now there is a considerable body of opinion in favor of our keeping for our children’s children, as a priceless heritage, all the delicate beauty and all the burly majesty of the mightier forms of wildlife. Surely our people do not understand, even yet, the rich heritage that is theirs!"
Dakota Datebook was written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.
Source: Wildlife message in Outlook magazine Jan, 25, 1913