Earlier this summer we saw the removal of a statue of Theodore Roosevelt in front of New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. It put our 26th president back in the spotlight, but then again, he never really left it.
In a new book, nature writer David Gessner looks at the life of Roosevelt as a conservationist and naturalist. Roosevelt, Gessner says, understood something no president before him had comprehended, that “there are worlds behind the human world.” He gave us our first national monument and gave the budding environmental movement its rallying cry when he proclaimed, from the rim of the Grand Canyon, “Leave it as it is.” But, Gessner reminds us, Roosevelt also was inclined to respond to natural beauty by killing it. In his book, Leave It As It Is, Gessner tracks Roosevelt’s journey from the badlands in the Dakotas to Utah’s Bears Ears, questioning along the way Roosevelt’s role as a champion of the natural world and assessing how his vision for our wilderness has played out.