“In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”
When Roosevelt made those words, he recognized that the canyon had a special place in America and that those looking to exploit it would go to any means to do so. It was because of this that he declared the Grand Canyon a National Monument using the Antiquities Act.
Today, places like the Grand Canyon may seem protected, but the reality is that they are not as protected as Roosevelt himself would have wanted. The Grand Canyon is facing the exact issues today that TR rallied against, development along the edge by business people who want to take advantage of the millions of people who visit annually.
While we all appreciate conveniences, the reality is that natural surroundings are made by the ages, while the interruptions of those surroundings are ruined in only a few days as bulldozers make flat places to put up those conveniences. We need places where solitude, reflection and natural beauty are the only thing we experience, and we need to make sure we protect these not only for ourselves, but the multiple generations that will follow.
“Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.”
Jobs and capitalism are an important part of the American fabric, but they do not replace the common sense to preserve natural resources that are unique on the globe. As you think about the millions of acres that Roosevelt helped preserve, contemplate this: If his actions had not been taken, what might they look like today?