RIGHTFUL HERITAGE by Douglas Brinkley

RIGHTFUL HERITAGE

Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Brinkley (History/Rice Univ.; Cronkite, 2012, etc.) returns with the provocative argument that Theodore Roosevelt was not the only environmentalist in the Roosevelt clan—far from it.

“There was never a eureka moment that transformed Franklin D. Roosevelt into a dyed-in-the-wool forest conservationist,” writes the author at the opening of this book. If there were, perhaps it would be at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, when the 11-year-old boy studied the thousands of specimens of flora and fauna on display, ardently taking in “the nucleus of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.” Having grown up with an interest in nature, and especially in birds, FDR took time as an officeholder in New York to preserve state lands and create parks; among his campaigns was one to convert the entire Catskills Mountains region into a protected conservation district, if not a state park, that mixed private and public ownership. As governor of New York, he assembled his first “brain trusts,” and among the first of these was one devoted to forestry and agronomy. As president, he famously initiated such environmental programs as the Civilian Conservation Corps, using an earlier idea of “forestry as work-relief” to gain bipartisan support for other planks of the New Deal. In his biography of the secretary, T.H. Watkins gave Interior Secretary Harold Ickes most of the credit for the principal environmental accomplishments of the FDR administrations, but Brinkley makes clear that Roosevelt was there at the creation and took a personal interest and lobbied hard for his proposals. Not all of them succeeded, notes the author: of a proposed “national shoreline parks” measure, for instance, only one of a dozen sites, Cape Hatteras, came under national protection. Even so, dozens of grasslands, game refuges, forests, and other conservation units came into the commonweal thanks to FDR’s work.

Overlong, as are so many of Brinkley’s books, but a brightly written, highly useful argument, especially in a time when the public domain is under siege.

Pub Date: March 15th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-06-208923-6
Page count: 752pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2016




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