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Preservation of History and Science [1900-1910]

1900 - 1910:
President Theodore Roosevelt speaking at Arch cornerstone ceremony at Yellowstone, 1903
The Antiquities Act:

The Antiquities Act, signed by President Roosevelt on June 8, 1906, gave the president the authority, independent of Congress, to proclaim national monuments for the preservation of sites with historic or scientific importance. A national monument would be administered by one of three departments—Agriculture, Interior, or War—depending on which one had jurisdiction over the land when the monument was created.

The first site to benefit from this new fast track to protection was Devil's Tower, which became a National Monument just three-and-a-half months after the Act's signing.

Photo: President Theodore Roosevelt speaking at Arch cornerstone ceremony at Yellowstone, 1903

Devil's Tower National Monument, 1933
The first national monuments:

The designation of Devil's Tower had surprised many who assumed the Antiquities Act would be used to protect cultural resources from the looting and degradation seen in Colorado. While Devil's Tower National Monument was known primarily for its unique geology, it did have a number of historically significant sites within its boundaries.

In December of 1906, President Roosevelt continued to exercise his power to protect sites of important scientific interest. The Petrified Forest National Monument contains petrified trees that are over 200 million years old. The monument also contains many archeological sites, including some ruins form ancestral Pueblo people, part of the same culture as those who lived at Mesa Verde.

President Roosevelt ultimately created 18 national monuments using the Antiquities Act during his time in office. Two years after the Petrified Forest, Roosevelt would establish the Grand Canyon National Monument, citing its "unusual scientific interest."

Photo: Devil's Tower National Monument, 1933

President Theodore Roosevelt on horseback at Mammoth Hot Springs, 1904
Theodore Roosevelt:

As stated earlier, Theodore Roosevelt did much concerning national parks and monuments. He also had a broader impact on the conservation movement, using the bully pulpit of the presidency to bring attention to the issue. Roosevelt claimed that conservation was "the most weighty question now before the people of the United States" (McGee, 1909). His contemporaries hailed his efforts. Charles C. Deam, Indiana's first state forester commented, "Teddy changed the sentiment of the whole country regarding conservation. Why, you didn't dare plant a tree before his administration without fear of being shot" (Schaub, 1947).

To further the progress of the conservation movement, Roosevelt organized the Conference of the Governors of the States to discuss solutions to fuel and land resources, sanitation, reclamation, grazing, water resources, and power generation. It is significant that the Conference of the Governors was the first time in American history that all the states' governors were invited to a meeting to discuss policy matters. In addition to the governors, Roosevelt invited industrialists, educators, and federal officials. Newspapers across the country carried articles about the conference, which helped to put conservation in the forefront of American political thought. David Cushman Coyle, a noted conservation historian stated that Roosevelt successfully used the conference to stamp "the doctrine of conservation on the minds of the American people" (Coyle, 1957).

Photo: President Theodore Roosevelt on horseback at Mammoth Hot Springs, 1904

The 'Great White Fleet' arrives in San Fransisco Bay, 1908
Culture and the political climate:

In the early 20th century, the United States pursued a much more aggressive foreign policy than in previous years. The US became involved economically and militarily in Latin American affairs, pursued new trade in China, and was eager to show off its new military muscle. On December 16, 1907, the United States Navy sent 16 battleships of the Atlantic fleet on a 14 month world tour. Known as the "Great White Fleet" for the color of the ships, the tour demonstrated the new reach of America's navy

Photo: The 'Great White Fleet' arrives in San Fransisco Bay, 1908



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What if there were no National Parks?
The Petrified Forest is known as the best place to study the ecosystem of the Triassic period.