Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thank You ,Teddy

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"I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."
Theodore Roosevelt

Sometimes I think about the foresight and pluck of people like Muir, Teddy, and Burroughs. In a time when natural resources seemed inexhaustible, they saw that they were not, and then acted to protect them. It was not a popular stance in a vibrant developing country. They held their ground and more importantly convinced others of the need to protect and conserve.

I may like them so much not just because they were thinking about me before my parents were born, but because they were optimists. They had to be. No "all is lost" pessimist would have taken on timber, mining, and development interests successfully ...all for the sake of future (that would be us) generations.

I have an especially soft spot for Teddy Roosevelt. An egret sporting breeding plumage, backlit by afternoon light can elicit this short prayer from me, "Thank you God and thank you too Teddy".

Here's why...

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, the trend in ladies hats was feathers, feathers, and more feathers. This was not a Florida trend as Florida was an almost empty (of people) swampy wilderness. This fashion craze was a product of the prosperous, urban north...especially New York state.

During this time, plume "hunters" would ambush egret breeding rookeries, shooting adults on the nest, stripping the beautiful"aigrettes" from the adults, and leaving the nesting chicks to die. Nothing more than good old fashioned greed was at work here. The per pound price for plumage was more than that of gold at the time.

Florida's wading bird populations were crash diving. It took the death of Warden Guy Bradley (who deserves his own post), the New York legislature finally banning the plumage, and Teddy establishing our first federal wildlife refuges to stop the slaughter.

On a huge continent, with a small population, and with still vast untouched areas, Teddy had the vision to see that it would not always be that way...even when most could not.

From tiny 5 acre Pelican Island, (the first federal wildlife refuge), the system he started has grown to about 500 refuges and covers over 94 million acres. There are countries smaller than our refuge system. Imagine that.

So thank you, Teddy.

Thank you for thinking about me so long before my arrival.


Thunder Dave said...

Amen brother! I shutter to think what the US would be like without all of the national parks and wildlife refuges. Spending most of my childhood summers camping, boating, fishing, and hiking, I just can't imagine a world with out them. Even now we live as far out of the city where we work as possible so that we are in a more wildlife rich environment. We either see deer on the way to work in the morning, or on the way home at night, but we see them almost every day!

Nice photo too!

roger said...

i'll add my amen. public parks, county, city, state, or federal, were and are a huge part of my life. your piece is timely as public lands are threatened by short-sighted legislators giving in to the same commercial interests you mention.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

Beautiful photograph, FC, and a perfect commentary on our national treasures. What better way to show love and respect to future generations than to leave them the best of what we have.
Thank you for reminding us.

Deb said...


vicki said...

Anne Lamott notes that most prayers break down into two basic categories: "help me,help me, help me" and "thank-you, thank-you, thank-you." I think when it comes to caring for creation these are quite fitting.

This is a stunning photograph, FC. I'm reminded of Ding Darling's place south of you. If you're not careful with these beautiful sights, I'm going to think I have to explore your neck of Florida.

Hick said...

Bee-utiful photo. I saw an egret at a pond here in the Sierrafoothills about a month ago. I don't think he belongs here...but there he was. I got a real grainy photo of him. Nothing like yours.

My uncle ran a bird refuge called Gray Lodge ( for years and years. We used to spend Thanksgiving there. We loved to drive through the area to look at all the birds every year.

Nice post.

Floridacracker said...

It's nice to see those deer...instead of running into them.

All public parks are a vote for the future, but the refuge system is unique since human use is not the first consideration, unlike the National Parks that I worked for.

Imagine if there had been even more foresight and planning. Think what we would have today.


I've been through Ding Darling Refuge, but it's been a while. As I recall it was a fantastic place for getting close to wading birds. Our nature coast region has some great spots, St. Marks NWR below Tallahassee is very nice for wading birds and migratory waterfowl.

Thanks. It's cool to have an "in" at a park or refuge. You get to be there after hours and see things the "regular" folk don't get to see. I bet your uncle loved showing off "his" park. I always did.

Wayne said...

I'm for anyone who sees into the future and understands that if our children can't see it, it might as well not exist. (Millions of urbanites have no idea that there are stars above us at night.)

Setting aside critical areas for preservation is of utmost importance to this end.

And btw, FC - I spent many happy hours in my high school and college days out at St Marks, and at the FSU marine station at Turkey Point.

Floridacracker said...

Me too on St. Marks and the FSU station! Back before the FCAT standardized test mania, when we could do truly enriching education, I used to take kids there for a weekend of marine science. What a great place.

Wayne said...

I should also have said, FC, my mind boggles in a positive sense at the idea that there were visionaries a century or two centuries ago that saw these things so clearly. Thanks for pointing that out.

BTW, I worked for awhile with Ed Cake and Robert Menzel at the marine station, but this was 25 years ago.

Later, much later, Robert Menzel's wife Margaret, who was a cytologist, coincidentally touched on my life.