As we near election time, many outdoors enthusiasts are examining prospective politicians not for their stance on abortion, the economy, or health care, but for their views on the environment. Depleting energy resources and increasing climate change make environmental policies extremely important for determining the future of our beloved natural spaces. For those that ask what a president can truly accomplish for our environment, take a look at some past presidential victories.
The big T.R. was a bit of a cowboy, riding around, exploring new lands, and shooting big things. While some environmentalists might be upset that Roosevelt killed a few largish animals in Africa (including 6 rare white rhinos), he also brought back great numbers of natural specimens for major natural history museums and greatly helped expand the field of biological research in America.
A much brighter spot among his accomplishments are the creation of the U.S. Forest Service, 18 national monuments, 51 bird reserves, 150 National Forests, and 5 National Parks. All in all, he protected over 230 million acres of forest land—nearly the size of an entire Wal-Mart.
Thomas Jefferson, or Jeff as no one ever called him, is more often tied to the Declaration of Independence than any great environmental victories. But don’t forget that it was Jefferson who sent a few fellas named Lewis and Clark to map out and discover the west. Some would argue that Jefferson was merely trying to ensure that he hadn’t just made an 828,000 square mile mistake (Louisiana Purchase). Even if his motives weren’t fueled by environmental intentions, the expedition gave America its first look at a majority of the country, inspiring land lovers for generations to come.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Granted, the man was elected president four times, FDR still has one of the most impressive records for helping to preserve our nation’s green spaces. Among the greatest of his contributions was the Civilian Conservation Corps. With FDR’s leadership, the CCC made more than 800 parks and almost 3 billion trees. They created forest fire fighting techniques and made roads through forest lands that were previously unreachable.
Most notable for establishing Thanksgiving as a federal holiday, Abraham Lincoln did a few other things when he wasn’t hiding things in his hat or trimming his beard. For park lovers, his biggest achievement was the Yosemite Grant. The Grant was the first federal land to be designated for preservation and public access and laid the foundation for the creation of all our national parks.
In 1916, amidst the chaos of World War I, Wilson took time out of his day to create a little thing called the National Park Service. Until that point, all parks were run by the Department of the Interior. To help ensure that our parks were given the care they deserved, a new department was created, giving birth to the beloved park system we have today.