Conservation in the White House

White House

In light of President’s Day, SCI Foundation would like to honor some of America’s greatest President-conservationists. Despite today’s politics, environmental conservation has always been a bipartisan issue. Since the early idea of America, our leaders have recognized the need to conserve and manage this country’s abundant natural resources.

The President we owe the most to is no doubt Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy was a naturist, an avid hunter and passionate outdoorsman. After entering the White House in 1901, he created the US Forest Service to use forest lands for the benefit of the people and sustainably manage America’s seemingly inexhaustible natural resources.

Theodore Roosevelt


Roosevelt declared the first National Wildlife Refuge in 1903, setting a precedent for a landslide of new protection and management. In 1906, the American Antiquities Act gave presidential authority to designate land as national monuments, one of the few ways a president can take direct action without congressional approval. These monuments are protected from development, conserving wildlife habitat and ensuring public access to hunters and recreationists. During his presidency, TR established 150 National Forests, 51 federal bird reserves (National Wildlife Refuges), 4 National Game Preserves, 5 National Parks, and 18 National Monuments totaling 230 million acres!

This standing legacy of conservation was the framework for the national park system that would be transferred to the National Park Service years later in 1916. Six of today’s national parks are named after Roosevelt.  Most importantly, Theodore Roosevelt established a precedent of stewardship and natural resource conservation for many Presidents to follow.

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The 1960s saw the emergence of a new environmental movement. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act in 1964, establishing a new framework to protect public lands. The Act has since protected over 100 million acres in the National Wilderness Preservation System. In this era of environmental legislation, President Richard Nixon also created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the Endangered Species Act into law in 1973.

More recently, our current President, Barrack Obama has built a substantial legacy for environmental conservation. With the newest National Monuments in California, including the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains National Monuments, Obama has helped protect over 265 million acres, the most of any President. These national monuments allow hunting and fishing among other recreational opportunities.

Castle Mountains National Monument, California

Presidents before Theodore Roosevelt, such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Harrison, along with others that came to follow such as Woodrow Wilson, FDR or JFK all deserve recognition for their contributions to conservation. Happy Presidents’ Day!

Twice a week, SCI Foundation informs readers about conservation initiatives happening worldwide and updates them on SCI Foundation’s news, projects and events. Tuesdays are dedicated to an Issue of the Week and Thursday’s Weekly Updates will provide an inside look into research and our other science-based conservation efforts. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more SCI Foundation news.

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