A few years back, the late Jim Range and I were trout fishing with Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt IV in Montana. After a morning of fishing in the sun, we found ourselves some shade and began to shoot the breeze. With our backs against a big hay bale, we fell into a conversation about Ted’s illustrious great-grandfather.
“Aren’t we all so fortunate that T.R. set aside 230 million acres of public land for the American people?” I said after a bit.
Before I could continue Ted added, “Yes, and he should have set aside even more!” I was taken aback by his comment and couldn’t help but think that T.R. was speaking through his great-grandson. I don’t believe in challenging spirits from the great beyond, and clearly, conservation is part of the Roosevelt DNA, so I remained silent and thought to myself, ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, now does it?’
I was reminded of that conversation the other day while reading Douglas Brinkley’s book, The Wilderness Warrior, a biography of our 26th president. In the book, Brinkley outlines why Roosevelt often is called the “father of conservation.” During his tenure in office, T.R. set aside or enlarged 150 national forests. He established 51 federal bird preserves, 18 national monuments, five national parks and four national game preserves. As is always the case when I revisit his record, I was in awe and doubly grateful for the legacy T.R. left us all.
Before closing the book, my thoughts drifted back to that warm afternoon in Montana. Ted had made another statement that has stuck with me since that day.
“I believe, as do some historians,” he said, “that if my great grandfather was elected president again in 1912 there would not have been a World War I.
We will never know exactly how many acres of land T.R. may have given us or how many soldiers may have been spared had the old Bull Moose prevailed in the 1912 election. What we can see, however, is the power that one man can have to affect the entire course of history. And in T.R.’s case, we are thankful and proud of this legacy.
I grewup in a small town in Vermont near Lake Champlain, and outdoor opportunities beckoned constantly. I had an uncle who was an avid sportsman, and he was my gateway to hunting and fishing. My uncle helped me buy my first firearm, a .410-caliber shotgun, and took me bird, squirrel, rabbit and deer hunting whenever possible. He loved ice fishing, and we did that together as well.
Q: What led you to your career in conservation?
That’s easy to answer – my time outdoors led to a passion for nature, wildlife and conservation. When I learned it was possible to go to college to study such things, my career path was clear. After I graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in wildlife biology, I began what would become a 26-year career with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. I have never regretted this career choice.
Q: How did you get involved with the TRCP?
I moved to Washington, D.C., three years ago to begin work with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. A large portion of my job duties focused on fisheries management. At some point, [TRCP Director of Policy and Government Relations] Tom Franklin asked me if I would chair TRCP’s Marine Fisheries Working Group, and I said yes.
Q: What do you think the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen are today?
Three issues immediately come to mind. The first one is habitat loss – development, energy transmission and climate change impacts are stressors of great magnitude on habitat quality. This in turn impacts the health, abundance and distribution of fish and wildlife resources. The second issue is access to hunting and fishing; habitat fragmentation, posted land and even competition for access on public land are making it difficult for hunters and anglers to get afield. Finally, state fish and wildlife agencies are the stewards of all fish and wildlife resources. The challenges facing these agencies are huge, and funding is stable at best. Sportsmen need to support new and broader funding for state agencies so our treasured resources remain sustainable and accessible in the future.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of the TRCP?
This is an important time for TRCP’s future, with the search for a new president and CEO. I look forward to serving on the TRCP board of directors to help shape that future and to define a conservation policy niche on behalf of hunters and anglers.