Over the course of this nation's history we have had president with many different visions for our country. Luckily, many have understood the importance of the preservation of wildlife and habitats in our nation and around the world.
Theodore Roosevelt is, for many, the president who is most thought of in connection with America's wilderness. He is known for his love of hunting, camping and outdoor pursuits. Though he was our nation's youngest president, he had a powerful influence on the future of our wilderness areas.
During his tenure, he created five national parks, four federal game preserves, 18 national monuments and 51 federal bird sanctuaries. He signed the National Monument Act, appointed a National Conservation Commission and held a North American Conservation conference at the White House. Roosevelt understood the importance of maintaining our nation's natural resources for future generations, an idea which grew in popularity over the years.
Today, our National Park Service manages 397 national parks, forests, monuments and other protected areas. The Grand Canyon, Devil's Tower and Crater Lake are among the many areas that gained protections during Roosevelt's presidency.
Another important milestone in America's environmental conservation history is the Endangered Species Act. This was first signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1973, and was created to "provide for the conservation of threatened and endangered species of fish, wildlife and plants." Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton all added more species each year than their predecessors. Almost 2,000 species of plants and animals are currently listed in the Act; 70 percent of these are only found in the United States.
Thanks to the protection of the Endangered Species Act, many species have started on the path to recovery. Success stories include bald eagles which have gone from 416 wild pairs in 1963 to 9,789 pair in 2006; Florida's red wolves, which increased from 17 wild individuals in 1980 to 257 in 2003; and black footed ferrets, which were thought to be extinct in 1980 have now been successfully reintroduced to the wild.
To celebrate Presidents' Day Monday, visit a national park, wildlife refuge or stop by Lee Richardson Zoo. Take some time to appreciate our most valuable resource — nature — and thank our presidents for helping to protect it for future generations.