Teddy Roosevelt was the first president that could be considered and active environmentalist. In addition to being an avid hunter and naturalist, he oversaw several of the beginnings of our national parks systems. Richard Nixon was the president under who the EPA was first established, and could also be considered a pivotal player in the executive environmental movement.
While I cannot say anything about past presidents’ private personal convictions (I bet many of our early presidents loved nature!), the first president to truly protect the environment, to the point of being called an environmentalist in our day, was Theodore Roosevelt. He “established the U.S. Forest Service and worked to have more than 70 natural areas, including the Grand Canyon, officially designated as national monuments, wildlife refuges, or national parks”. He was even concerned about the depletion of natural resources.
Teddy Roosevelt was definitely the first person that we learn about in our history. There were probably presidents that wanted to preserve the environment for human beings sake, but Teddy was the first to do so. He did not truly care for the environment though, he just wanted to “preserve” resources for the future.
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