tv [untitled] CSPAN June 21, 2009 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT
>> shepherdstown, west virginia, it located in the eastern panhandle of the state near the famous civil war sites of antietam and harper's ferry. founded by thomas shepherd in 1734 and chartered by the virginia assembly in 1762, it is the oldest town in the state. today shepherdstown is home to a division of the u.s. fish and wild life service, a bureau of the department of interior. that's where q&a campers went in late april to talk to historian douglas brinkley about his book on the influence of our 26th president on the
history of the conservation movement. the book is titled, wilt chamberlain -- "the wilderness warrior: theodore roosevelt and the crusade for america." >> doug brinkley, why did you want to start our conversation about your book at this center. well, this is the national conservation training center. this is where biologists get trained and make sure that our rivers and that our marshlands are taken care of that manage endangered species, it's the headquarters of fish and wild life but conservationist leaders come all over the world for seminars and learn proper methods and techniques. here on the side like walking pasture, are pictures of caribou in alaska, roosevelt was very interested in all big game including caribou. and what interests me is writing a book like "the wilderness warrior" is roosevelt really is the father of u.s. fish and wild life.
if john muir is the create or of the sarah club. roosevelt felt there was an obligation to save efficient and animals and plants and trees and the president has an obligation to make sure that we put aside for generations unborn natural wonders like roosevelt did like the grant canyon or mount olympus or the petrified forest. this turned this training center for conservation into a museum for theodore roosevelt. >> when did you get interested in theodore roosevelt? i loved him since childhood. i enjoyed lead reading about him. i loved the buy graph i-s. i really got interested in him in 1992 when i had a program, "the magic bus" that brings students across the country. i went to the badlands of north dakota. it's the western edge. that's where t.r. spent his ranching days as a cowboy and
did some hunting. he wrote incredible books, particularly called "the wilderness hunter." the in-between was an incredibly informed writing by the biology, the ecosystem as we call it today of the badlands. roosevelt knew more about the badlands than any persona live 100 years ago. i fell in love with that particular american landscape. i was teaching at hofstra university with the late john gable who died unfortunately of cancer. we co-hosted a hofstra presidential conference. i was co-chair on theodore roosevelt. i had papers coming in from all over. i started realizing and john gable helped me realize this that had never been a book written on t.r. and conservation, t.r. on the wilderness of any magnitude. there was a little bit of note so i had this great opening. i started realizing that between the civil war, the emancipation proclamation of
lincoln and world war i with woodrow wilson, roosevelt using the white house to promote conservation and nature and what he called the strenuous life to save birds, his involvement with the audubon society and the eventual creation of u.s. fish and wild life and our national monuments, it's changed machine. in this summer anyone opens up an atlas, there is america and you see that green. you're looking at roosevelt reserves, roosevelt monuments. he put aside almost 240 million acres of wild america. now as people are talking about environmentism and green movements, roosevelt is becoming the key figure to understand because he was the only politician of his day who had absorbed darwin and who had understood biology and understood birds' migratory patterns and understood mating habits of dear and elk and antelope and actually did something. he is the president who in his
young days shot a buffalo and he is the president who created wichita mountains in oklahoma reserve for buffalo and one up in montana. >> one of the things you see throughout this center are stuffed animals. >> well, tax determiney -- roosevelt was trained in the arm of taxidermy. his teacher in new york was john bell who had been an audubon student. there was a linkage between them and young t.r. had asthma. he was very sickly. really from 8 years old on wards, he was obsessed with birds. he created his own roosevelt museum, brian. his father, theodore roosevelt's father was the founder of the american museum of enroll history in new york and young t.r. just became a bird lover. his first document we have of t.r. as a young boy is about birds and the last article he wrote before his death at age
60 was about birds and i'm not saying he just liked birds. he was one of the world's experts on coloration and variation on inventorying what we have and he created these bird reservations. 51 federal bird reservations that roosevelt created are now the heart and soul of u.s. fish and wild life. all of the people watching this have heard of fish and wild life but they don't know this began with this 51 bird reservations of roosevelt trying to save egrets and pelicans and others on both coasts. >> before we go any farther, explain where this conservation training center is located. >> we are in shepherdstown, west virginia, not too far from washington, d.c. it's a beautiful campus in west virginia. here it's the archive where did i research. they have the papers, not just of early conservationists but
people like carson in the 1960's who worked for fish and wild life. for me, this place is an archival treasure trove. in addition, i went to the places roosevelt saved so i would go to various bird places that he actually saved and they have local archives, one in michigan or one in arizona. i even went to puerto rico recently to go to see the national forest which he saved for the national forest service, which is our only rainforest in our entire protection system in the united states and it's home to a rare puerto rican parrot. it's a spectacular park if you can go to puerto rico and see the rainforest there. but i would go to these places, meet the local superintendent or ranger or warden, what have you and interviewed them and also get local documentation, too. but this is the nerve center for what i consider roosevelt's grid of america. >> we're standing in the
roosevelt room of the center. when you look up behind you, there is a picture, photograph, large photograph above the fire-place, who is in that photo? >> that's theodore roosevelt with the great naturalist john muir in 1903. roosevelt becomes president in 1901 because mckinley was assassinated. he is sworn in this buffalo. he keeps policies similar to mckinley. he doesn't. two months as president, t.r. starts this aggressive conservation program because he had created the first game boon and -- he created the first wild life protection for big game group. he was a member of the audubon society and as governor of new york, t.r. had been considered a radical on preservation of natural resources. in 1903, t.r. gets on the train and goes to yellowstone with john burrows. then he goes to the grand canyon and ends up in the redwoods of northern california and then goes to yosemite.
here is the president of the united states with john muir and they camp out. they camp out under these redwood trees which roosevelt thought the redwoods were great ca they drals. he would use religious imagery of redwoods. they slept in a snowstorm without a tent and he said the greatest day i ever spent in my life freezing in a snowstorm with john muir. they would try to outnaturalist each other. nobody new birds like t.r. muir was a botanist so he would talk about the plants. roosevelt was outplaying them on birds. they had a friendly competition. roosevelt thought muir was a great man. muir thought that in extreme cases of hunger you should shoot an animal. roosevelt thought that hunters the great could be
k-conservationition. muir says when are you going to give up that boyish hunting thing of yourselves. t.r. said i know i need to, i should. of course, he didn't. he went on to africa as ex president and brazil collecting for science but also getting specimens and it gets back to your taxidermy question, before d.n.a., before banning of animals and radar, they would study birds was by as many specimens. he couldn't have one blue bird and know anything definitively about them. you had to have a wide selection of them to study in the laboratory. roosevelt as many collected for the biological survey for what is today's fish and wild life. wherever he went, he would send specimens in and skins in to get them analyzed because t.r. as a key point in my book, brian, after the civil war, the first people going west wanted
agee love call survey was the big deal. people wanted things mapped and it was about money. where is the mineral rights. where is the copper, the gold, the zink. t.r. is interested in a biological survey. i want to know what wild flowers we have, what native grasses, what kind of insects, what kind of song birds, how many flocks. i want numbers. and so he is applying t.r., our only scientist-trained president, he is applying what he learned at harvard as a naturalist studies major, what he learned from his field observations to the presidency in his inventorying between 1901 and 1909 what we are custodians of in this country. >> how many people were in the united states in those years? >> oh, gosh, in 20th century? i don't want to say the wrong number on your show. >> we have 300 plus million now. >> i don't know. i don't want to say wrong. i would say around 150 million or something like that if i had to guess.
i don't want to. where roosevelt went to the west, it wasn't that populated, meaning new mexico was a territory. arizona was a territory. oklahoma were the twin territories. so he could use the power of the executive office to make executive orders on behalf of them, declare it because they were territories. >> how old was he when he was president? >> he came in -- he died when he was 60. he was mainly president in his 40's. he was at that point our youngest american president who in later, there is always a trick, john f. kennedy was the youngest elected because t.r. didn't come in as elected. he was in the prime of his life, incredibly vigorous and one of the things i argue in this book is there is a psychiatrist at johns hopkins university that wrote a book.
and she argued that roosevelt had a kind of form of manic depression called exuberance and he couldn't turn his mind off or his energy off. so when you read a lot about roosevelt, bully, he would hike sometimes 40, 50 miles. he would go into rock creek park as president and horseback ride all the time. he would do these -- like as president here, just disappearing in the wild for days at a time without reporters. but this was part of his need to act all the time. he was a person of pure emotion, locomotion, constant -- if he entered a room, he took it over. >> let me interrupt and ask another -- this probably isn't fair, but are you a little bit like him? >> i identify with him in the sense that i had asthma as a boy and it wasn't fun having asthma. for some reason, i have found a lot of relief from nature. so i go on nature hiking with
my kids. the outdoors to me is a great replenisher whenever i get a chance. i'm living in austin, i go to a place called the wild basin a lot. i go down to big bend national park and in addition to that, my parents were high school teachers and we had a trailer and we used to go around the country and catch-all of these places. so animals, i'm very much like t.r. in his love of animals. i have in my study place in austin, we had a family, a kit of raccoons born under my daughter's bedroom. i have a possum that comes out and eets from the cat dish. i have bird feeders all over i have wild life around me. it's in vogue that urban people can develop nature deficiency. and roosevelt was very concerned about industrialization for health and you had to get back to nature and have nature in your life.
you didn't have to live in the wild. but you needed the national parks and monuments, a place to replenish your spirit and come back to work. >> i remember you spent a summer in north dakota. how many years ago was that? >> that was 1992. i go up there every -- not every summer, every other summer. in fact, i did a lot of research for this book, "the wilderness warrior," up there. the badlands where t.r. used to live is theodore roosevelt national park. there is a wonderful park superintendent valerie nailer who helped me a lot with this book. proof read chapters and helped me understand that terrain there. there is also a woman named shyla schaefer who i dedicated this book to. she saved mindora. many people go on vacations to south dakota because of mount rushmore and the black hills. there is wind okafor national park that he -- cave national park that he created.
devil's tower which is the first national monument. going to north dakota, spectacular national park is theodore roosevelt national park. families are guaranteed to see buffalo in the wild, wild horses, immense prairie dog towns, antelope. i go jogging or mountain biking and there are hurts of antelope and you're -- hurts of antelope cutting by them. in montana you're getting forest fires in canada, so the air quality isn't that great. this part of the badlands, from the mindora north, it's the north pole. the air at night, you get the -- you see the north star, the whole sky is like a planetarium there at night and the sun celtics are miraculous. one of the environmental things i hope the obama administration will do more to protect the little missouri river, the river roosevelt loved by his ranch there. it's prairie lands and too
often we haven't treasured the american prairies. but the interior of the united states, the midwest and the great plains is a part of this country that i personally feel happiest in more than the coast. >> in and around publishing this book, you have published several other books and articles. your book on katrina came out when? >> 2006. >> had you been working on this book? >> i was. i have been working on this book for a long time. it's been a passion. i have been collecting -- roosevelt's papers are divided up at harvard where wallace daly helped me a great deal. library of congress has his papers on fish, but we're looking at a man, t.r., who wrote over 150,000 letters. what has traditionally happened, people are looking in his crohn's for issues of panama canal and trust busting. t.r. would write a lot, he would rightmost on birds, people would skirt over it. it's a hobby.
i took his writing about animal life very seriously because he did. i'll give you an example. we know him as the rough riders, spanish american war. t.r., when he trained in san antonio, had to have animals around him. he had three mascots. he had a cougar cub named josephine from arizona. he had a gold eagle, teddy, and a dog, cuba. so to train his men, he had three animals with him all the time and would write letters about the cougar biting a man's foot and he would find all this funny. this menagerie of roosevelt continued in the white house. famously he had a pony in the elevator. he had a pet badger he picked up on this trip, josiah where he fed it potatoes and warm milk. he didn't have a dog like the obama's dog. he had six animals. the dog he picked up in colorado would sit on his lap. he inherited this love of animals a lot from his uncle
robert roosevelt who in the 1850's and 1870 was was an expert on fish. he would write about wild florida which is very big to roosevelt. it came part of the family tradition being a conservationist. >> how did you convince or do you try to conversion harper collins to public a 1,000-page book in this economy we're in right now? >> my vision is do a quartet called america and the age of conservation with the first volume really on t.r. they don't like to promote publishers multivolumes because people feel it's a first volume. we're not marketing it that per say. i wanted to do something definitive. i have always loved these multiple series of america and i realized that we have never written a real conservation history of the country. and t.r., because of all of the diaries he kept, the books that he wrote was the perfect person
to do it. i could have cut down my book down in length. in order to do that i wouldn't write about crater national park in oregon or the petrified forest in arizona or not write about the bird refuges in florida. you would have to start cutting the places he saved. i didn't want to do that. i thought my book was a chance for a major statement for people to understand these battles. it's not a washington story of roosevelt in the white house. there were foot soldiers for conservation everywhere and t.r. was networking with these people. it isn't a biography of theodore roosevelt. it's a book about the naturalists and conservationists around him. we mentioned burrows and muir so far. but there was the head of the smithsonian institute who started caring about wild life. there was a man who bread buffalo at the bronx zoo to repopulate the plains with buffalo.
there is dr. c. heart miriam who ran the biological survey. there are many. these aren't household names and i wanted to inject them into the mainstream history. i didn't want them to be relegated just to a specialist. it's just not roosevelt i'm writing about but a circle of these people around him. >> you talked about mindoro. how many other places did you spend time in to research this book? >> almost all. there are hundreds going down, but all of his national parks and his monuments i have visited. i travel the country a lot. this has been my hobby really visiting roosevelt's places. and so what was very exciting for me, i'll just pick a place that i hadn't been on this book that isn't one, pine knot is a canyon outside of char lotsville that is in the wild. roosevelt saw the last alive passenger pinch i don't know.
it is now an extinct species. roosevelt wrote the last observation of one in the wild. pine knot shows the real t.r., the rustic the person that was most comfortable in nature. people don't want to think of roosevelt's conservation as a policy as much as a passion. the foresight that he had that we could not deforest ourselves. we had to keep our rivers protected. that animals had to have habitat. and because he was influenced by darwin so much, he believed that to lose a species of any kind was like losing a masterpiece of old, that we had a moral obligation to make sure we protected wild life and species because to live without animals for roosevelt or wildlife was to live in utter pain in a modern condition of commerce and not romance. he was a scientist, roosevelt, but he got romantic excitement,
really, from the wild and from seeing species in the wild. >> so here at this center, the national conservation training center of the fish and wildlife service, this place is paid for by the taxpayer. do you think they know about it? >> no, this is one of the reasons i wanted you to come and i am glad you came here. they have a great archive here. for example, i was looking at the oregon coast, you look at the pacific coast of washington, oregon, roosevelt saving them. you see them on the map and he saved those and the early photography. he was interested in wild life photography. he had a man from oregon, another one of the guys i deal with in my book. he would show him pictures of wild orlando magic. roosevelt went up to portland and met him once and it became the movement to save the wild life of oregon. the states, particularly in the west and florida, you can't
even -- you can't write about the states without seeing the impact roosevelt had. and these weren't easy things to do. when he saved the grand canyon, he went there and said don't mar the grant canyon, standing on the rim. it's for future generations. you cannot improve the beauty of it. he was shocked to find that congress was ready to mine it for as bestios and sync, copper and commercialize it. and roosevelt used an executive order, meaning congress refused to make the grand canyon a national park. they refused. roosevelt had a weapon, the antiquities act of 1906. roosevelt said i so declare it a national monument for future generations overriding congress. the key to t.r.'s conservation is he did it with this group, but congress and particularly western senators and congressmen were not into the
federal government grabbing an area like the grand canyon and closing it off. roosevelt's conservation can be seen as he was inspired by lincoln's emancipation and the power of the federal government and roosevelt's heroes were keen on protecting yellowstone. general grant saved yellowstone in 1872 as president and sherman and sheridan, the union generals were hunters but they wanted to create game reserves. and so roosevelt's part of that tradition somewhat also but he is determined to use the executive power to save wild america. >> go back to the business of the archives here. are you afraid maybe that you have opened this place up to others that they would discover and take away this -- you have had a special look at this stuff? >> no. what i want, brian, is to come. it's a campus environment here. you want scholars to start looking in this. look, you can't pick up a magazine without reading about green power or wind power, the
environmental movement, a planet in peril like in anderson cooper's. in order to understand it, roosevelt created the global modern conservation movement. he as president was calling for international conferences to save rainforests and you know redwood forest, old evergreen forests. it wasn't just localized to america for t.r. he was evolved in the sense of seeing problems of hyperindustrialization and the havoc it was going to create on wilderness areas. he wanted the world to act. he could not be more relevant. his concerns 100 years ago are really now our true front-burner concerns today. >> this place, tell me if i'm wrong, it wouldn't be here without robert c byrd, a west virginia place, $150 million came into build this place, all done specific to this requirement here. do you think roosevelt would be
surprised if he saw this? >> he would love it. >> would he be surprised, though? >> no, i don't think he would because his sense of grandeur was so large. i mean, he was creating conservationist foot soldiers. i talk about the cartoonist who joined his crusade. what he was doing was creating a movement, roosevelt. it would be like martin luther king creating a civil rights movement. roosevelt was spearheading the conservation movement for perpetuity. many of the first rangers in the west were rough riders who served with him. he wanted to militarize areas because he was able about poaching, people stealing petrified wood. he was doing law enforcement and saying we were going to protect our heirlooms. he would call these places like wind cave or yosemite or mesa
verde national club which he created. they're training people how to be conservationists in west virginia. >> if you look around and all of these banners hanging in this room have locations that he was involved in. >> he saved these. >> again, at the time do you think, he left when he was 51 years old and he was president, he didn't live beyond 60. do you think at the time they would be that important that all these years later this kind of thing would be basically celebrated in history? >> he would be pleased. but remember, because of our time limits, i can't get into it in a microwave a specialist, but there is -- >> you might want to buy the book then? >> well, people talk about the bull moose in theodore roosevelt, the bull moose party in american history. remember, roosevelt leaves 100 years ago in 1909, in march of 1909 he leaves the white house. in the last weeks, he put bird
reserves and monuments everywhere. mount owe lip pus he saved at the last minute using executive orders. this was no lame duck president t.r. he left for a year in after ricafment while he was in africa. taft fired his chief forester who is in a picture on the mississippi river heading to a memphis conservation conference. he was the chief forester. taft fired him over alaska lands arguments. taft was trying to let commerce to lands t.r. put aside for preservation for federal use and started and so they fired pincho. he goes to italy and meets t.r. when he returns from africa and he gets inflamed because taft is daring to try to turn back even a portion of his conservation legacy. and what roosevelt spent the bull moose party is created in