Our 26th president's name is increasingly bandied about as uncertainty over the future of our natural resources, particularly those on public lands, reaches new heights. Leaving aside the hyperbole and knee-jerk reactions to the daily gyrations that surround our current politics, environmental or otherwise, there are fascinating reverberations in our forests and streams from Theodore Roosevelt's era that continue to resonate today.
Let's leave behind the broader questions that are currently hanging over our natural resource and public land policies (questions that I know are causing many people tremendous anxiety) and instead look at how Theodore Roosevelt helped shape today's trout fishing experience.
Theodore Roosevelt was a master outdoorsman and big game hunter, but a fisherman... not so much. In an article title, "Theodore Roosevelt as an Angler," Paul Schullery neatly presents that Roosevelt did enjoy angling from time-to-time, but usually in the pursuit of food rather than sport. Roosevelt reserved his sporting appetite for the big game he so loved to chase.
Roosevelt held a front row seat to the 19th century tug-of-war between those who wanted development of natural resources and those who wanted conservation of the country's bountiful resources. He saw the debate not as diametrically opposed outcomes, but two sides of the same coin.
So where does Theodore Roosevelt fit into today's trout fishing experience? Roosevelt appreciated that society requires access to the nation's natural resources, but he also recognized that conservation was a critical component of natural resource management to prevent large-scale degradation of the American landscape. Additionally, he promoted the "strenuous life", particularly outdoor activity, believing that even in the late 1800's and early 1900's that urbanization was sapping the hardiness from American society.
Roosevelt's pragmatism in the development of natural resource policy and his promotion of the "strenuous life" provided incentives for the government and private citizens to fill many fishless wilderness lakes with trout in order to provide Americans additional sporting pursuit. The stocking of wilderness waters has carried forward today.
Just three weeks ago I pursued brook, golden, and Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the Cloudpeak Wilderness of Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains. Echoes of Teddy Roosevelt's pragmatic natural resource policies whispered softly to me across the aquamarine surface of the alpine lakes I cast my fly upon. We have much to continue to thank our 26th president for.
My recent book, Wyoming Mountains & Home-waters: Family, Fly Fishing, and Conservation, holds tales of Theodore Roosevelt, trout, wilderness, and much, much more!
This blog was posted on the original Conservation Angler blogger page on 8/7/2017 and has been slightly updated for posting here.
Until next time,