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Every step of the progress of mankind is marked by the discovery and use of resources previously unused," the president said. "Without such progressive knowledge and utilization of natural resources, population could not grow, nor industries multiply, nor the hidden wealth of the earth be developed for the benefit of mankind."

Roosevelt noted that in George Washington's time, anthracite coal was considered "a useless black stone," and that "water was practically the only source of power, save the labor of men and animals: and this power was used only in the most primitive fashion." At the same time, wood was virtually the only fuel, "and what lumber was sawed was consumed locally, while the forests were regarded chiefly as obstructions to settlement and cultivation."

Alluding to the emergence of the United States as a world leader, Roosevelt said, "Our position in the world has been attained by the extent and the thoroughness of the control we have achieved over nature; but we are more, and not less, dependent upon what she furnishes than at any previous time of history since the days of primitive man."

Ninety years ago the president said that "the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone; when the coal, the iron, and the oil and the gas are exhausted; when the soils shall have been still further impoverished and washed into streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation."

"These questions," he continued, "do not relate only to the next century or to the next generation. It is time for us now as a nation to exercise the same reasonable foresight in dealing with our great natural resources that would be shown by any prudent man in conserving and wisely using the property which contains the assurance of well-being for himself and his children."

The president divided natural resources that we use into two sharply distinguished classes according to whether or not they are capable of renewal.

He warned that minerals do not and cannot renew themselves. "Therefore, in dealing with the coal, the oil, the gas, the iron metals generally, all that we can do is try to see that they are wisely used. The is certain to come in time."

"The second class of resources consists of those which cannot only be used in such a manner as to leave them undiminished for our children, but can actually be improved by wise use. The soil, the forests, the waterways come in his category," Roosevelt told his White House audience.

He cautioned that "various uses of our natural resources are so closely connected that they should be coordinated and should be treated as part of one coherent plan and not in haphazard and piecemeal fashion."

"We are coming to recognize as never before the right of the nation to guard its own future in the essential matter of natural resources," the president said.

Extraordinary observer that he was, Roosevelt had a genius for detail and an equal genius for seeing nearly everything he investigated as being an essential element of a larger, all encompassing picture. He told his listeners that the conservation of our natural resources "is yet but part of another and greater problem to which this nation is not yet awake, but to which it will awake in time, and with which it must hereafter grapple if it is to live with the problem of natural efficiency, the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation."

Teddy Roosevelt's words on conservation are as valid today as they were 90 years ago. He had much to teach New York and the nation then, and he continues to have much to teach us today. We can best honor his legacy by continuing to listen to him.

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