Theodore Roosevelt, the energetic, perpetual-motion machine, once was characterized as “pure act” and was described by his daughter Alice as “always wanting to be the bride at every wedding and corpse at every funeral.” There’s no doubt the man craved attention but not so much so that he was loathe to ask for help, especially when it came to the conservation agenda he set for himself. Luckily for Roosevelt, he had Iowa Congressman John F. Lacey at his side.
T.R.’s association with Lacey began years before his rise to the presidency. Lacey was a member of the Boone & Crockett Club, founded by T.R. and George Bird Grinnell in 1887. In 1894, after years of working to protect Yellowstone National Park’s wildlife, a bison poaching incident in the park created a public outcry. Within a week, Lacey introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to give the Department of the Interior authority to arrest and prosecute lawbreakers in the park and protect Yellowstone’s wildlife. In matter of days, the legislation passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Cleveland.
In 1900 after much consideration, debate and delay, the Lacey Act was passed. The act outlawed market hunting and the interstate shipments of plants, wildlife and wildlife parts, particularly those that were illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold. If the Lacey Act and corresponding state laws had not been enacted, numerous fish and wildlife species would have faced extinction.
Not until 1906, when Roosevelt was president and busy establishing America’s great public lands, was he met with heavy resistance from special interest groups and Congress itself. Lacey and Edgar Lee Hewett stepped up to the plate and authored what would become known as the Antiquities Act. Essentially, the act gave Roosevelt the power to conserve lands without congressional approval. Roosevelt relished that authority and, thankfully for future generations, set aside iconic landscapes such as the Grand Canyon, which at the time was being eyed by mining and other natural resource extraction interests that hoped to exploit the “Big Ditch.”
Lacey lost his congressional seat in the fall elections that year after serving eight terms. Following Lacey’s loss, T.R. offered him a seat in his cabinet or an ambassadorship. Lacey passed on Roosevelt’s offer and returned to Iowa to practice law, a path he pursued until his death in 1913.
Unlike Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Lacey never seemed to care about the limelight. As a result, he probably would have ended up in the dust bin of history, were it not for his connection to the Lacey Act.
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Congratulations to Lex Morgan for answering last month’s TR i.v.i.a. question correctly. Morgan, a 63-year-old electronic field service engineer from Bryan, Texas, first learned about the TRCP while watching an episode of “Escape to the Wild” and joined right away.
“I believe in the principles of conservation promoted by the Partnership and the ‘Square Deal’ espoused by T.R.,” said Morgan. “Since joining I have made somewhat of a hobby of studying T.R.’s life, and the more I learn, the more I am amazed that the man packed such a robust life into 60 short years.”
Former Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service In February, Sam Hamilton, director of USFWS, died unexpectedly while skiing with his family in Colorado. Hamilton’s career in conservation began at the age of 15 when he joined the Youth Conservation Corps. Conservation defined Hamilton’s 30-year-tenure with the Service. The TRCP’s Featured Conservation Leader typically focuses on an individual making significant contributions to the sportsmen-conservationist policy world today. In the wake of Hamilton’s sudden death, his friends and colleagues stepped forward with reflections on his life, career and goals.
Q: What led Sam to a career in conservation?
“He’s never done anything but work for conservation,” said Jeff Fleming, USFWS assistant regional director for external affairs. “That’s what drove him.” Hamilton’s work with the YCC on the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi stuck with him as he went on to graduate from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science in biology. He used his knowledge and leadership skills to bring an all-hands-on-deck approach to conservation and other key issues facing fish and wildlife. “It was Sam’s thought that no one agency can deal with all these issues. He worked in a way that would bring state, federal and non-government organizations – conservation groups – together,” said Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and chairman of the TRCP policy council. “He wanted everybody pulling in the same direction.”
Q: How did Sam get involved with hunting and angling groups like the TRCP?
“Sam had a big interest in fishing, and he certainly had a big interest in hunting. He was invested in the sport/recreation side of conservation,” said Tom Sadler, consultant with the TRCP Center for Marine Fisheries. Hamilton was a lifelong hunter and angler, something that translated into all aspects of his life. “He wanted to do right by the land because he was a hunter. One of his big objectives was to do all he could – work with fellow anglers and hunters – to ensure healthy populations of wildlife,” said Fleming. “In a large measure, he did it so that his sons and grandson could enjoy the same hunting and fishing opportunities.”
Q: What did he think the most important conservation issue facing sportsmen was today?
“He was obviously very concerned about the impacts of climate change and the effects nationwide. He was leading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to look not just down at the ground before them but to really look out at the horizon to talk about a plan for climate change impacts on the environment,” said Williams.
Q: What were his hopes for the future of the conservation community?
Hamilton had an uncanny ability to unite all types of groups around a good cause. It was his wish that a diverse set of groups continue to work together to address the threats to our lands, waters and wildlife. “His idea was: Instead of us all hiding our lights under a basket, bringing them together to shine light on the things that we know and the things that we don’t know. It’s an effort to approach conservation on a very large scale,” said Williams.