Updating the Most Important Photo in Conservation History

Jun 20, 2016 · 3 min read

When Sierra Club co-founder John Muir met President Theodore Roosevelt in Yosemite in 1903, the idea of preserving the last wild places on the planet was radical. Muir, a Scottish immigrant had spent summers in the Sierra and walking across the U.S. He was the perfect match for the boisterous big game hunter Teddy Roosevelt.

Muir lead the President on a three-day trip that began with camping at the Mariposa Grove and included Glacier Point (where the famous photo above was taken.) Five inches of snow fell on one cold night and the President slept on 40 wool blankets. He loved it.

“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias…our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their Children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred,” — President Theodore Roosevelt

The trip cemented a relationship between Roosevelt and conservationists. President Theodore Roosevelt created the National Forest Service, signed into existence five national parks, 18 national monuments, 55 national bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges, and 150 national forests.

President Theodore Roosevelt protected over 230 million acres of land during his Presidency.

One of his greatest accomplishments was passing the 1906 American Antiquities Act, which allows the President to protect National Monuments through executive order. As President Obama winds down his final term, he’s using this Act to protect long-threatened parts of America.

On his recent trip to Yosemite, President Obama greeted current Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, updating the classic Muir & Roosevelt photo.

President Obama and Sierra Club President Aaron Mair updated the original Muir/Roosevelt photo

Nearly one hundred years later, the work continues to protect the last wild areas of the United States. President Obama recently created three new national monuments, Mojave Trails National Monument, Sand to Snow National Monument, and Castle Mountains National Monument. The Mojave Trails and Castle Mountains National Monuments are particularly close to my heart as they contain lands that we were unable to protect at the original passage of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act.

There is still work to be done. One very important place still unprotected is the Bears Ears area in Utah. This is sacred Native American land that has unified support for protection from Tribal leaders and the conservation community. You can support the campaign to protect Bears Ears here.

“Our country is home to some of the most beautiful God-given landscapes in the world. We’re blessed with natural treasures — from the Grand Tetons to the Grand Canyon; from lush forests and vast deserts to lakes and rivers teeming with wildlife. And it’s our responsibility to protect these treasures for future generations, just as previous generations protected them for us. — President Obama

President Obama has already protected more than 265 million acres of land and water. That’s even more than President Teddy Roosevelt. Progress.

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