Presidents Who Shaped America's Public Lands
Thank You, Thomas Jefferson - President Thomas Jefferson’s public lands legacy centers on the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Doubling the size of the country, the United States acquired territory that formed 15 new states and included the future sites of many national parks, including Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Jefferson also sponsored the Lewis & Clark Expedition, which led to significant additions to the zoological and botanical knowledge of the continent.
Thank You, Abraham Lincoln - Despite being one of our greatest presidents, people don’t often think about President Abraham Lincoln when it comes to conservation. However, he changed the course of America’s public lands when he signed a law setting aside the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley as protected lands in 1864. Overshadowed by the Civil War, this news received little attention, but it set a significant precedent -- places of scenic and natural importance should be protected for the enjoyment of all people.
Thank You, Ulysses S. Grant - Few historians consider Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency to be innovative or forward-thinking, but he accomplished two firsts in the area of conservation that live on today. In 1868, Grant set aside the Pribilof Islands in Alaska as a reserve for the northern fur seal. This was the earliest effort to use federally owned land to protect wildlife. In 1872, he signed a law establishing Yellowstone as our nation’s first national park. Today, there are more than 400 sites in the national park system.
Thank you, Franklin Delano Roosevelt - As a lifelong lover of nature and wildlife, President Franklin D. Roosevelt undertook many executive actions to protect and improve public lands. Not only did he create 11 national monuments, his New Deal program -- the Civilian Conservation Corps -- dramatically impacted existing park lands. Millions of people were put to work building infrastructure in national parks and forests, ultimately planting billions of trees, building roads and trails, and combating soil erosion.
Thank you, Woodrow Wilson - In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Organic Act,” creating the bureau responsible for protecting America’s 35 already existing national parks and monuments and those yet to be established. Our national parks are called America's best idea, and this year, we're celebrating 100 years of the National Park Service. Wilson’s administration also presided over the creation of several new national parks, including icons like Dinosaur National Monument and Rocky Mountain National Park
Thank you, Dwight Eisenhower, for establishing the Arctic National Wildlife Range (now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) in 1960! First set aside by Dwight D. Eisenhower as the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960, this is the United States' only conservation unit that encompasses an entire Arctic ecosystem. When President Eisenhower acted, he had the wisdom and foresight to include the entire ecosystem, both north, and south of the Brooks Range, including the biologically rich Coastal Plain, which is essential to the integrity of this ecosystem.
Thank you, Jimmy Carter - The president from Georgia had a massive impact on public lands in Alaska. When President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 into law, he set aside over 104 million acres of land, creating 10 national parks and preserves, two national monuments, nine national wildlife refuges, two national conservation areas and 25 wild and scenic rivers ensuring that large portions of wilderness remain undeveloped.
Thank you, George H.W. Bush, for signing the North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) and establishing 41 new refuges. Many NAWCA funded projects have added or improved habitat on refuges.
Thank You, Bill Clinton, for signing the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act in 1997. For almost a century, the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System had been managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a variety of laws without an "Organic Act" or comprehensive legislation spelling out how it ought to be managed and used by the public
Thank you, Barack Obama - In the seven years since President Barack Obama took office, he’s shown his commitment to conservation and preserving America’s special places for future generations. Obama has established 22 national monuments and expanded others to set aside more than 265 million acres of land and water -- that’s more than any other president. This includes the expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument into the largest marine monument in the world and most recently designating three new monuments in the California Desert.