Leave it as it is A journey through Theodore Roosevelt's American wilderness

David Gessner, 1961-

Book - 2020

"An urgent call to protect America's public lands, told through New York Times bestselling author David Gessner's American road trip with our greatest conservationist, Theodore Roosevelt, as his guide"--

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2nd Floor 333.78316/Gessner Checked In
Travel writing
New York, NY : Simon & Schuster 2020.
Main Author
David Gessner, 1961- (author)
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Physical Description
338 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [315]-321) and index.
  • Prelude: Theodore on the Edge
  • Chapter 1. Into the Badlands
  • Chapter 2. Teddyland
  • Interlude: Theodore Absorbed
  • Chapter 3. Complicated Nature
  • Chapter 4. The Cowboy Problem
  • Interlude: The Yosemite Summit
  • Chapter 5. Monumental
  • Chapter 6. Confluence
  • Interlude: Theodore Descends
  • Chapter 7. Under Siege
  • Chapter 8. Fight and Flight
  • Postlude: The West from Above
  • Acknowledgments
  • Appendix: Proclamations
  • Appendix: Voices
  • Recommended Reading
  • Illustration Credits
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Naturalist Gessner (All the Wild that Remains) delivers a thoughtful consideration of Theodore Roosevelt's conservation legacy as president. According to this book, there is "practically speaking, no greater savior" of U.S. wilderness than Roosevelt, who created five national parks, 150 national forests, and 51 bird and four national game preserves, as well as the United States Forest Service. In a campaign speech delivered on the lip of the Grand Canyon in 1903, he memorably summed up his ethos regarding nature as "Leave it as it is." This is no hagiography, however, as Gessner highlights his subject's contradictions and hypocrisies as well as virtues. Most glaringly, like other conservationists of the time, Roosevelt held a "pristine ideal of an unpeopled nature" that pointedly excluded Native Americans, who were viewed as an "encroachment." However, Gessner sees great value in the 26th president's "muscular environmentalism," which saw him unafraid to press or circumvent a reluctant Congress, and which in the present, Gessner believes, could serve as a template for taking action to protect lands under threat from climate change and fossil fuel companies. This is an excellent look at the origins of environmentalism and an inspiring call to build upon what Roosevelt and other early environmentalists started. Agent: Peter Steinberg, Foundry Literary + Media. (Aug.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

An admiring study of Theodore Roosevelt and his attachment to the natural world. "All you have to do is go back and read the man's sentences," writes environmental-literature writer and professor Gessner. "Not the jingoistic, chest-beating, America-first rants or the bloody descriptions of killing things. But the words in between." Though often given to sentences that have a faux Hemingway swagger to them, Gessner proves the point by examining Roosevelt's evolving appreciation of nature and his recognition that other orders of existence besides the human had claims to the world. Some of that appreciation came through the tutelage of early nature writers and explorers such as John Burroughs and John Muir. Much, though, was born of Roosevelt's dedication to improving his already capacious mind but once feeble body by scaling the rocks of Yosemite, hiking into the Grand Canyon, and other tests. Roosevelt repaid the favor by placing great tracts of public domain land in service as wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, and the like. Gessner mixes solid research with on-the-ground explorations that sometimes get a little goofy, as when, on a trip to Yosemite of his own, he allows his accompanying nephew a "small, safe, legal, uncle-supervised" nibble on a marijuana cookie. His travels often lead, though, to contested places such as the embattled Bears Ears National Monument, for which he mounts an eloquent appeal to return land that the Trump administration has delisted to the public domain. Gessner sometimes wanders down paths of speculation that don't lead anywhere fruitful ("What would he make of the warming climate and dying species and what we have done with the wilderness he left us?"), and he doesn't break much new ground. Still, it's useful to be reminded of a president who appreciates the natural world and puts government to work doing good things. Fans of Teddy the outdoor enthusiast will appreciate Gessner's account. (maps and photos) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.