"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."
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".
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.