TR's Wild Side

As a Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt’s attention to nature and love of animals were much in evidence, characteristics that would later help form his strong conservationist platform as president

ON JUNE 3, 1898, 39 days into the Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders arrived in Florida by train, assigned to the U.S. transport Yucatan. But the departure date from Tampa Bay for Cuba kept changing. Just a month earlier, the 39-year-old Teddy had quit his job as assistant secretary of the Navy, taken command of the 1,250-man 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment along with Leonard Wood, and began a mobilization to dislodge the Spanish from Cuba. Read more »

A Signature On The Land

The naturalist ALDO LEOPOLD not only gave the wilderness idea its most persuasive articulation; he offered a way of thinking that turned the entire history of land use on its head

The trouble began at midmorning on Wednesday, April 21, 1948, when a neighboring farm’s trash fire got out of control. Flames skittered across the grassy farmyard and began chewing swiftly through a marsh toward the “plantation” of white and red pines that the professor and his family had been nurturing diligently on their 120-acre patch of worn-out Wisconsin farmland since 1935.Read more »

When Dismal Swamps Became Priceless Wetlands

American attitudes toward them have taken a 180-degree turn over the last century—and so have the battles they provoke

ORGANIZED AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM IS HARDLY older than this century, and most of its current concerns are younger still. Some of the resources it now tries to protect, in fact, were among its original targets. To the conservation movement of the early 1900s, clearing a forest was a public offense, but draining a marsh or a swamp was a public duty.Read more »

The American Environment


The Cuyahoga River died for our sins . In 1796 the Cuyahoga, which promised easy transportation into the wilderness of the Ohio country from Lake Erie, prompted the city of Cleveland into existence. Over the next 170 years a primitive frontier town grew into a mighty industrial city, one that stretched for miles along the banks of its seminal river. Read more »

Father Of The Forests

Ninety years ago a highborn zealot named Gifford Pinchot knew more about woodlands than any man in America. What he did about them changed the country we live in and helped define environmentalism.

Like most public officials, Gov. Gifford Pinchot of Pennsylvania could not answer all his mail personally. Much of it had to be left to aides, but not all of these realized the character of their boss. When a citizen wrote in 1931 to complain angrily about one of the governor’s appointments, Pinchot was not pleased to find the following prepared for his signature: “I am somewhat surprised at the tone of your letter.… It has been my aim since I became Governor to select the best possible person for each position.Read more »

To Save The World We Built

Every town you pass through has felt the impact of the modern historic-preservation movement. Now a founder of that movement discusses what is real and what is fake in preservation efforts.

Twenty years ago nobody thought much about saving old buildings. The phrase urban renewal had an optimistic, forward-looking sound to it, and entire urban centers were razed with little thought of what might be lost in the process. Today communities across America are fighting to save their architectural heritage. James Marston Fitch, more than any other individual, has championed that cause.Read more »

A Heritage Preserved


The person in the cherry picker is giving an odd sort of truth to Walter Pater’s definition of art: “All art does but consist in the removal of surplusage. ” For Phoebe Dent Weil is removing surplusage from the statue of Saint Louis that resides in Forest Park, St. Louis, just as she would like to see done to all the statues and monuments that stand in the parks, plazas, squares, and civic centers of nearly every city in the nation. Read more »

Johnny Appleseed

The quietly compelling legend of America’s gentlest pioneer

“There is in the western country a very extraordinary missionary of the New Jerusalem. A man has appeared who seems to be almost independent of corporal wants and sufferings. He goes barefooted, can sleep anywhere, in house or out of house, and live upon the coarsest and most scanty fare. He has actually thawed the ice with his bare feet. Read more »

In Furor Hortensis

The Garden Club of America-once the diversion of leisured ladies—is now a vigorous environmental league

The young should be trained to love flowers and take care of the garden shrubberies. Such knowledge and taste are greatly needed in our land,” counseled Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1858. The editors of that genteel monthly went on to note with alarm: “The surface of the United States is undergoing a revolution that must change its appearance and atmosphere. The hand of Industry is everywhere displacing the decorations of Nature, the hand of Art must add new beautifyings or the country will be unsightly as well as unhealthy.Read more »

The Man Who Loved Wilderness

The Passion of Percy Baxter—

A penny pincher who gave away millions, a governor who ordered the state’s flags lowered to half-mast upon his dog’s death, a lifelong bachelor who was the attentive escort of beautiful women, an animal lover who sent stray dogs to prison as companions for the inmates—Percival Proctor Baxter of Maine (1876–1969) was a true Yankee original. There is no evidence that he ever held any opinion mildly. He was also a visionary, a resolute one who had to buy his dream to have it realized. What this singular and complex man coveted was Maine’s highest peak, Mt.Read more »