Introduction

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Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir at Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California, 1903. Courtesy of the University of California Berkeley, Bancroft Library via California Digital Library.

Presidential Conservationists 

Several presidents of the United States have worked to preserve the unique geological features of the Mountain West region for the public to experience and enjoy. Yellowstone National Park, for example, was created as the first national park in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant to preserve the geysers and unique geologic features of the area. President Theodore Roosevelt appreciated the grandeur and open spaces he encountered in the West and recognized the need to protect lands for future public use, as well. Roosevelt used his authority to create the US Forest Service to protect and maintain wildlife habitats by establishing bird and game preserves and national parks.

In 1906, Roosevelt enabled the American Antiquities Act (AAA). The AAA stated that “any person who shall appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of antiquity, situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States” would face fines and possible imprisonment. Roosevelt’s conservation mindedness is reflected in his work to pass the AAA—which enabled the establishment of some of the first national parks—and his general love for nature and the outdoors. Because of his, and other presidents’ foresight, millions of visitors from across the world are able to enjoy nationally protected lands.