The Tree Ring

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This article by Barbara Basbanes Richter first appeared in the March 20, 2017 issue of High Country News .

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A tale of two Roosevelts

Two books examine how both Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt helped build an American conservation ethos.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt drive past Mount Hood on their way to dedicate Timberline Lodge in 1937. There, Roosevelt said, “I take very great pleasure in dedicating this Lodge, not only as a new adjunct of our National Forests, but also as a place to play for generations of Americans in the days to come.”
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At his recent confirmation hearings, Donald Trump’s new Interior Secretary, former Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., frequently evoked his admiration for Theodore Roosevelt, comparing their shared devotion to wildlife conservation. While what the future holds remains to be seen, few presidents are more closely associated with protecting nature than Theodore Roosevelt. Until recently, though, his cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, remained relatively unsung as a conservationist. Now, two books examine how these men helped preserve the nation’s natural treasures and build public institutions dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and wilderness. The books provide an unexpected contrast in heft — Darrin Lunde’s The Naturalist weighs in at a reasonable 352 pages, largely because it confines itself to exploring Theodore Roosevelt’s work as a private citizen. Douglas Brinkley, however, tackles the entirety of Franklin Roosevelt’s conservation career, starting from his childhood, making for an exhaustive 752-page volume, Rightful Heritage.

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