Amy's Reviews > The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America

The Wilderness Warrior by Douglas Brinkley
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's review
May 21, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: history-presidents, biography-presidents
Read from May 23 to June 05, 2010

A little dry, but overall, a fascinating look at a side of Roosevelt that we have rarely seen.

I learned a lot about this side of Roosevelt. For example, I knew he was a big game hunter, but I did not know that he fought for conservation and was very interested in birds (a student of Audubon) and their habitats. This contradiction in his "personality" has baffled Roosevelt scholars for years.

Also, it's been said by modern enviromentalists that Roosevelt had a conflict of loyalties in the West between pro-growth policies like the Reclamation Act and pro-preservation policies like saving the redwoods. This is true. Basically, he wanted his cake & to eat it too.

Brinkley makes political references throughout the book. I saw these as "points of reference" for when (timing) Roosevelt as a Conservationist made significant decisions / contributions to the field.

I read some of the reviews here on Good Reads. Some people did not like this book because they thought it was rushed to come out at the same time as Ken Burns' National Parks and while, there are some parts that do not gel as well as they should or could, overall this is still a phenomenal book. Also, the information dispersed goes way beyond what is shown in Burns' National Parks series.

It was interesting reading about who was responsible for maintaining and managing these lands / monuments / national wildlife refuges. You have to know / remember that the National Parks Service was not established until around 1916.

There was often confusion for who was responsible for maintaining these places. What made national monuments so confusing was that, depending on what was expedient on a case-by-case basis, they were under the jurisdiction of one of three departments: Interior, Agriculture, or War. Eventually (as mentioned above), they were all brought under the Department of the Interior (National Parks Service).

It was also fascinating to read about the various formal acts that were enacted to protect lands / monuments for future generations.

Did you know that there is an elk named after Roosevelt? (pp. 306-307)

Also, did you know that this nation had no President for more than 12 suspenseful hours between the time of McKinley's death and the time it took to locate Teddy Roosevelt? (p. 394)

The history surrounding the teddy bear can be found beginning on page 442.

Roosevelt wanted to establish the Grand Canyon plateau as a new national park. In 1902, it was a national forest in which extraction was allowed. However, there were a lot of issues ...

Devils Tower in Wyoming became Roosevelt's first national monument, created in 1906.

There is a whole history surrounding Owen Wister's "The Virginian" beginning on page 463. This is one of my least favorite books. However, I learned that Roosevelt proofread part of "The Virginian" before publication ...

I've always wondered why so many of our national parks / forests / monuments were in the west. Well, I finally have my answer: Roosevelt believed that the main thrust of American history was western expansionism. He was insistent that places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the redwoods, Mount Olympus, Crater Lake, etc. were the rightful trophies of this expansionism.

Alaska & Hawaii were not yet states, but ideas regarding the land were already being recommended. It is simply amazing that more than 100 bills concerning Alaska (alone) were presented to the Fifty-Eighth Congress and because Alaska was not yet a state, many of these bills went right through congress.

Today, 100 years after Roosevelt created the Hawaiian Islands Federal Bird Reservation, many of the small lagoons have still not been mapped.

Marine biologists today consider Roosevelt's Executive Order 1019 a stupendous moment in oceanographic history because it preserved the great bird and seal rookeries of Hawaii from human exploitation. Now called the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, the chain continues to serve as nesting areas for more than 14 MILLION breeding seabirds, waterfowl, wintering shorebirds, endangered turtles and seals, and legions of whales.

The whole bird protection movement was extraordinary. It was very interesting reading about the plumers (sp?) and trying to protect the habitats.

We don't seem to put as great of an emphasis on Arbor Day as we used to, but Roosevelt loved Arbor Day because it gave American citizens a chance to do something productive. Every April new trees would be planted across America.

It was fascinating reading about what other presidents have done along the way regarding conservation and preservation of lands across the country. When Woodrow Wilson became president in 1913, he deemed Roosevelt's Proclamation No. 869 excessive and downsized Mount Olympus National Monument from 615,000 to 300,000 acres. Roosevelt was furious. When he died in 1919, a movement was under way to return the ecosystem to its original 615,000 acres. But presidents Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover were unwilling to do it, wanting to secure the "timber vote" of the Olympic Peninsula. At last, in 1938 Franklin D. Roosevelt, by presidential proclamation, returned his cousin's acreage to the monument.

As mentioned above, the Grand Canyon plateau had some problems in becoming a national park. It did not actually become a national park until February 26, 1919. The now legendary announcement came just one month after Roosevelt's death. Furthermore, in 1975, President Gerald Ford passed the Grand Canyon Enlargement Act, placing the entire Colorado River corridor under the management of the National Park Service.

In 7 years, 69 days, Roosevelt had saved more than 234 MILLION acres of American wilderness. History still hasn't caught up with the long-term magnitude of his achievement.

Roosevelt's greatest White House accomplishment was encouraging young people to join wildlife and forestry protection movements.

This review is the tip of the iceberg of the valuable information and history provided in this book. I hope that people will take the opportunity to read this insightful book into one president and the history surrounding some of our most precious places.


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05/28/2010 page 64
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