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Know the West

Roosevelt was a pragmatic conservationist

  Andrew Gulliford opines that Theodore Roosevelt, if he came back today, would be flabbergasted by the Interior Department’s recent decision to jettison years of study on BLM wilderness areas (HCN, 10/13/03: Where's Teddy when you need him?).

I’m not so sure. Roosevelt certainly knew and respected John Muir, and supported his vision to preserve and protect the greatest scenic and natural attractions of America. But Roosevelt also knew and respected Gifford Pinchot, another great American, whom Teddy appointed to be the first chief of the Forest Service. Pinchot was pragmatic, and believed the public lands should be managed for "the greatest good of the greatest number of people in the long run." This concept eventually developed into the concept of multiple use.

In many ways, Roosevelt combined the best qualities of both Muir and Pinchot. He believed in preserving and protecting some parts of the public land, but he also believed the public lands should provide a wide variety of goods and services to support the growth and development of a great nation.

Yes, I think if Roosevelt came back today, he would be satisfied with the way things turned out. He would likely smile, adjust his spectacles, and say "Good show, ol’ chaps. Keep up the good work."

Jim Gerber
St. Anthony, Idaho