President’s Day was originally celebrated in honor of our first president, George Washington, whose birthday is later in the month of February. Typically, Abraham Lincoln is also honored on this day. Even though the day was first created to honor just a few of our more well-known presidents, it has come to serve as a day where we can remember all of presidents and their many great accomplishments. Alas, I’m afraid it would take your entire day off to remember all 43 men who served our nation. So, this year I would like to focus on just one man – President Theodore Roosevelt – and what he accomplished in the field of conservation.
After studying natural history at Harvard, he was elected to the New York State Legislature. His avid interest in the natural world continued as he pursued hunting as a hobby. Unlike many other hunters during his day, Roosevelt began to notice the negative effects of overexploitation. Only so much can be taken from the wilderness before it is harmed beyond healing. He helped co-found the Boone and Crockett Club, a unique group of hunters that also studied the game animals and their habitats and discussed their preservation. One of their greatest achievements was the protection of Yellowstone National Park from commercial exploitation.
His political career was kindled by the lobbying and efforts made in Washington D.C. for the protection of Yellowstone. He went on to become our nation’s 26th president, from 1901 to 1909. One of his acts during his early presidency was the protection of shorebirds on Pelican Island in Florida. The demand for plumes for ladies’ hats was wiping out this population of birds, so he created Pelican Island Bird Reservation and ensured their future survival.