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Teddy Roosevelt Championed Conservation Efforts—That Also Displaced Native Americans

Theodore Roosevelt is known as the “conservation president” for his undaunted efforts, at the dawn of the 20th century, to shield wildlife and public lands from development. His efforts helped establish America’s national park and forestry services, putting more than 200 million acres of land under public protection. But transferring all that territory to government control came at a steep cost to Indigenous people, who had been stewarding those lands for generations.

A Harvard-educated New Yorker, Roosevelt was deeply inspired by nature and the mythos of the western frontier. A lifelong hunter and explorer, he continually ventured into the wilderness for renewal—from the backwoods of Maine to the Dakota Badlands to an unmapped river in the wilds of Brazil. In his youth and early adulthood, he often pursued “the strenuous life” to help ameliorate physical ailments, build character and overcome deep personal losses. Later, his relationship to nature took on an almost spiritual quality.

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