Theodore Roosevelt Delivers The Opening Speech At The Conference Of Governors

On May 13, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered the opening address, "Conservation as a National Duty," at the outset of a three-day meeting billed as the Governors' Conference on the Conservation of Natural Resources.

He explained to the attendees that "the occasion for the meeting lies in the fact that the natural resources of our country are in danger of exhaustion if we permit the old wasteful methods of exploiting them longer to continue." The conference propelled conservation issues into the forefront of public consciousness and stimulated a large number of private and state-level conservation initiatives.

The gathering of the nation's governors was spearheaded by Chief Forester of the United States Gifford Pinchot, with the assistance of Secretary of the Inland Waterways Commission William John "WJ" McGee. No individual was so completely and prominently identified with the American conservation movement in this era as Gifford Pinchot, who made it his mission to establish the permanently sustainable use of the nation's natural resources on a foundation of rational and integrated public ownership and management.

The Conference of Governors held in the White House May 13-15, 1908 under the sponsorship of President Theodore Roosevelt. Gifford Pinchot, at that time Chief Forester of the U.S., was the primary mover of the conference.

The focus of the conference was on natural resources and their proper use. President Roosevelt delivered the opening address: "Conservation as a National Duty." Among those speaking were leading industrialists, such as Andrew Carnegie and James J. Hill, politicians, and resource experts. Their speeches emphasized both the nation's need to exploit renewable resources and the differing situations of the various states, requiring different plans. This Conference was a seminal event in the history of conservationism; it brought the issue to public attention in a highly visible way. The next year saw two outgrowths of the Conference: the National Conservation Commission, which Roosevelt and Pinchot set up with representatives from the states and Federal agencies, and the First National Conservation Congress, which Pinchot led as an assembly of private conservation interests.

One distinguishing characteristic of really civilized men is foresight…if we do not exercise that foresight, dark will be the future!”

— Theodore Roosevelt

The conservation movement also known as nature conservation is a political, social and, to some extent, scientific movement that seeks to protect natural resources including plant and animal species as well as their habitat for the future.

The early conservation movement not included fisheries and wildlife management, water, soil conservation and sustainable forestry. The contemporary conservation movement has broadened from the early movement's emphasis on use of sustainable yield of natural resources and preservation of wilderness areas to include preservation of biodiversity. Some say the conservation movement is part of the broader and more far-reaching environmental movement, while others argue that they differ both in ideology and practice. Chiefly in the United States, conservation is seen as differing from environmentalism in that it aims to preserve natural resources expressly for their continued sustainable use by humans. In other parts of the world conservation is used more broadly to include the setting aside of natural areas and the active protection of wildlife for their inherent value, as much as for any value they may have for humans.