Chapter Six - Our Vanishing Wildlife


Losing the presidential election made Roosevelt an even more revolutionary conservationist. In January 1913, he wrote a book review in the progressive opinion journal the Outlook that condemned Americans’ indifference to wildlife protection and habitat preservation. The review, which served as Roosevelt’s own manifesto on behalf of endangered species, was of the zoologist William Temple Hornaday’s Our Vanishing Wild Life, a scientific consideration of the “appalling rapidity” of global species destruction. What Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle had been for reform of meatpacking, Our Vanishing Wild Life was to the defense of disappearing creatures such as the prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido), whooping crane (Grus americana), and roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja). The devastation of marine mammals in Alaskan waters was particularly disturbing to Hornaday, director of the Bronx Zoo for thirty years. In his requiem, Hornaday, who had also served as president of the Permanent Wildlife Protective Association, surveyed 100 years of reckless exploitation of American wildlife. The book included a drawing of a tombstone, listing eleven North American bird species that had been “exterminated by civilized man” between 1840 and 1910; among these were the great auk (Pinguinus impennis), passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), and Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis). Dedicated to William Dutcher, president of the National Association of Audubon Societies, Our Vanishing Wild Life was a mournful alarm intended to educate the public about a continent, if not a world, in biological peril.1

Intended to shake up the status quo, Our Vanishing Wild Life was published in the unsparing tradition of the investigative journalists Lincoln Steffens (urban politics), Ida Tarbell (Standard Oil), and Ray Stannard Baker (coal miners’ union)—a take-no-prisoners assault aimed at saving buffalo, river otters (Lontra canadensis), flamingos, and hundreds of other creatures from further diminution. Every page was laden with punctilious zoological facts. Every page was a harassment, a humane cry to abolish coyote wagons, steel traps, and slob hunting. Biological reports, for example, had taught Hornaday that the Bering Sea had once been populated by Steller’s sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas), a marine mammal twenty-five feet long and weighing eight to ten tons. By 1768, however, these sea cows, sluggish vegetarians that fed on the great kelp pastures of the Aleutian Islands, were extinct.2 They had been wiped out by irresponsible Russian market hunters.

Aroused by Hornaday’s alarm bell, the Boone and Crockett Club appointed a committee for the protection of Alaska’s walrus, fur seals, sea otters (Enhydra lutris), and other marine mammals. The Pribilof Islands, the club members believed, should remain a wildlife reserve without the threat of market slaughter of seals, otters, and blue foxes (Alopex lagopus).3 Hornaday conceived Our Vanishing Wild Life (published in conjunction with the New York Zoological Society and endorsed by Roosevelt) as a plea to Americans to stop their reckless treatment of their most cherished animal sanctuaries. The book was full of grave assertions, and Hornaday had scores to settle with the American industrial order. Building on court battles fought on behalf of animal rights groups such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the National Audubon Society, Hornaday led the way toward the Endangered Species Acts that were finally enacted in 1966, 1969, and 1973. “We are weary,” he wrote, “of witnessing the greed, selfishness, and cruelty of ‘civilized’ man toward the wild creatures of the earth. We are sick of tales of slaughter and pictures of carnage. It is time for a sweeping Reformation; and that is precisely what we now demand.”4

Hornaday—who was born in Avon, Indiana, on December 1, 1854—did more to save wild creatures from extinction than anyone else of his era. He had been raised on Mayne Reid’s adventure stories, such as Osceola and The Plant Hunter, and he had spent his formative years in Iowa (like Aldo Leopold). He developed a sense of awe for the mysteries of creation. A skilled taxidermist, husbandryman, and animal handler, Hornaday set off around the world; he was hired by museums to collect wildlife specimens in the West Indies, Cuba, Florida, Asia, and South America. Deeply eccentric and stubborn, never flinching from a fight, Hornaday believed there were two types of individuals: those who adored animals and those who didn’t. A prolific author—he wrote more than twenty books—Hornaday became the greatest popular zoologist of the late nineteenth century. In 1904 Hornaday’s The American Natural History, beautifully illustrated textbook, was a huge best seller, educating the lay public about our native wildlife.5

As an advocate of animal protection, Hornaday was both unrelenting and potent. His monograph The Extermination of the American Bison (1889), for example, was widely credited with finally stopping the random slaughter of bison on the Great Plains. When Roosevelt formed the idea of founding the Bronx Zoo in New York during the 1890s, he chose Hornaday as his chief zoologist. Bold, ornery, and fiercely argumentative, Hornaday, with a closely cropped beard like Robert E. Lee’s, was a wizard at describing animal traits with scientific certitude. He worked in tandem with Roosevelt on numerous wildlife protection projects. Together they cofounded the American Bison Society, lobbied for federal laws against the selling of wild game, and endorsed the Weeks-McLean Bill of 1912, which further protected migratory birds against states’ rights legislators in the Deep South and the West. Joining forces with Roosevelt and Hornaday was the automaker Henry Ford. “Birds,” Ford wrote in a letter asking his dealers to back the Weeks-McLean Bill, “are the best companions.”6

Roosevelt and Hornaday collaborated shrewdly in protecting the northern fur seal of the Pribilofs and other Alaska rookeries. Unafraid of strenuous language, they said that Taft’s U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and his Fur Commission Board were full of “pelagic pirates”—employees essentially in the pockets of the Alaska Commercial Company (which later became the National Commercial Company)—and they forced the U.S. Congress to ban the slaughter of seals. Roosevelt and Hornaday were leaders of the Camp Fire Club of America (CFCA), whose members were disgusted that American women, rejecting farm-bred mink, made seal fur coats the fashion. How grotesquely Russian of them!

What stirred Hornaday and Roosevelt to battle even more was the complicity of the Taft administration in the “murders” of Alaskan seals. At the congressional hearings in 1911 and 1912, the CFCA scored a victory. The Seal Treaty of 1911 was signed by the United States, Britain, Russia, and Japan. It probably saved Alaska’s northern fur seal from extinction, and helped save other mammals as well.7 “The treaty produced a significant dividend: almost as an afterthought it prohibited the killing of sea otters,” the historian Frank Graham Jr. noted in Man’s Dominion. “At that time they were considered extinct or nearly so on our shores. Under protection, that delightful little animal has reappeared, to the nation’s aesthetic profit, in some numbers off the coast of California.”8And there was a healthy, noisy colony of sea otters on Amchitka Island in the Aleutians. The Natives had fled Amchitka, worried about a volcano; this gave the sea otters undisturbed waters, kelp, and shellfish. Amchitka was the greatest sea otter sanctuary left in the world—a fact that Hornaday cited with nationalistic pride.

Following the victory in Congress, Roosevelt and Hornaday delivered the knockout punch—concluding a twenty-eight-year conservationist fight started by Henry Wood Elliot in the 1870s. Congress agreed to ban the slaughter of all seals and otters in all American waters. The New York Timesdeclared the victory in 1912 a triumph for the CFCA. “This battle against animal murder for profit was won,” the Times said. “Congress ordered that no man should kill a seal on American territory for five years. The friends of the seal wanted a ten-year closed season, but they were pretty well satisfied with what they got, for the reason that now the seal-slaughterers are on the run it will not be hard in 1917 to get Congress to give a five-year extension.”9

Although Hornaday—who liked to be called “Doctor”—had been a hunter all his life, the Alaskan seal slaughter caused him to drop his gun. Nobody in the CFCA—which was filled with sportsmen—held it against him, although there were murmurs that Hornaday had turned soft on animal rights. In Hornaday’s mind, it was unseemly for rifle companies such as Winchester and Springfield to donate money to wildlife protection groups. Putting the seal butchers out of business encouraged Hornaday to try to save Dall sheep and caribou in Alaska. “All large hoofed animals have a weak hold on life,” Hornaday wrote. “This is because it is so difficult for them to hide, and so very easy for man to creep up within the killing range of modern, high-power, long-range rifles. Is it not pitiful to think of animals like the caribou, moose, white sheep and bear trying to survive on the naked ridges and bald mountains of Yukon Territory and Alaska! With a modern rifle, the greatest duffer on earth can creep up within killing distance of any of the big game of the North.”10 Hornaday went on to say, “I have been a sportsman myself, but times have changed, and we must change also.”11

Enter Roosevelt again. After siding with Hornaday on the fight of 1911–1912 over protecting seals, Roosevelt now favorably reviewed Our Vanishing Wild Life in Outlook. This praise, coming from the very popular ex-president, created quite a stir, and put wildlife protection in the forefront of the progressive movement alongside civil rights, women’s suffrage, and public education. The Colonel blamed the American people—yes, the people themselves—for the deplorable fact that such birds as the Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis), passenger pigeon, great auk, Labrador duck (Camptorhynchus labradorius), and sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) were nearing (or had reached) extinction. An incensed Roosevelt challenged citizens to change their outdated mind-set, to more fully comprehend the farmyard fact that songbirds gobbled up noxious insects and that raptors devoured rodents. As a member of the CFCA, Roosevelt was duty-bound to rid Alaska of overfishing. He wanted the traditional salmon grounds of the Haida and Tlingit of Alaska-Canada protected from corporate canneries. As Darwin taught an entire generation, there was an intricate biological order on Earth that humans barely understood. Both Roosevelt and Hornaday, however, recognized that U.S. wildlife was part of a continental biota; therefore, Mexico and Canada had to be included in all studies. As Robert B. Roosevelt, TR’s conservationist uncle, had maintained in the 1870s, dams and barricades and nets erected across rivers had to be stopped to protect the fish runs. “The United States at this moment occupies a lamentable position as being perhaps the chief offender among civilized nations in permitting the destruction and pollution of nature,” TR wrote in Outlook (for which he was a contributing editor): “Our whole modern civilization is at fault in the matter. But we in America are probably most at fault.”12

Roosevelt’s book review revealed a maturation (or heightening) of his wilderness philosophy. Writing from his command center at the United Charities Building in Manhattan, where his eight-by-ten-foot mahogany desk was considered the Grand Central Terminal of the progressive movement, Roosevelt saw bloodstained evidence that his old enemies (the market hunters, slash-and-burn developers, corporate trusts, anticonservationists, free marketers, the predatory rich, and corporate despoilers interested only in making money) were behind the rapid decline of wildlife in places like the Alaska Range, the Kenai Peninsula, and the Pribilofs. Insisting that the U.S. conservation movement was largely about the preservation of “noble and beautiful forms of wildlife,” Roosevelt wrote that it was “wickedness” to allow companies to “destroy” animals and birds indiscriminately.

One example was the plight of the Alaskan walrus, highly gregarious pinnipeds whose extremely thick hide was coveted by Eskimos, Japanese, and Russians alike in the regions around the north pole. They had breeding grounds in the northern Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea (including Wrangell Island). During the spring months, walrus were found on pack ice. But come summer some males had hauled themselves onto the shore to molt, becoming easy targets for market hunters. (The females and young, however, remained on the offshore ice. Only during the first decade of the twenty-first century did the female walrus come ashore because, as a result of global warming, there was no ice remaining during the summer in parts of the Chukchi Sea.13) With the introduction of semiautomatic weapons, hunters in pursuit of hides and blubber were now slaughtering walrus herds throughout the year, including during breeding season in the offshore Islands. Because walrus were both colonial and highly social, they liked congregating rather than seeking their own space. A male walrus tusk averaged between twenty-five and thirty inches long; these tusks were prized all around the world for their smooth beauty. Market hunting of walrus intensified when whales were overharvested in the Bering and Chukchi seas during the late 1800s: whalers, desperate to recoup lost income, trained their harpoons on walrus. Roosevelt believed that “drastic action” was needed to prevent the extinction of Alaska’s walrus, recommending an “absolute prohibition of killing at all.”14

It was now time for Alaska to make permanent advances in protecting its mammals. The moose season in Alaska, a famous October event, lured scores of hunters from the Lower Forty-Eight, and as winter drew closer, they’d stomp across the autumnal reaches and slay lumbering giants, all in the name of sport. Roosevelt and Hornaday wanted the bag limit on moose immediately reduced by 50 percent. They even wanted the Tlingit, Tanana, and Ahtna to reform their ancient ways of hunting. “The indolent and often extortionate Indians of Alaska—who now demand ‘big money’ for every service they perform—are not so valuable as citizens that they should be permitted to feed riotously upon moose, and cow moose at that,” Hornaday fumed, “until that species is extermi- nated.”15

To members of the Sierra Club, CFCA, New York Zoological Society, and National Audubon Society, Roosevelt’s critique of American indifference toward wild animals was a heady wine. John Muir—who had escorted William Howard Taft around Yosemite in October 1909—might have danced a jig when he read Roosevelt’s words in the Outlook, telling citizens to “wake up” to the “damage done by the migratory sheep bands” that were permitted to “pasture on, and to destroy the public domain.” (Muir, even though he had once been a shepherd, famously called domesticated sheep “hoofed locusts.”) Pinchot was pleased that the Colonel was still going after thugs. Hornaday’s prescient book, in fact, had given Roosevelt an array of devastating statistics for making his conservationist case. But to the Republican regulars, still bitter that Roosevelt had wreaked havoc on the party in 1912, the review was another indication that TR had become a wild man. “Crazy Teddy” was more interested in the ability of sea otters to raid oyster beds in the Alexander Archipelago than in the ability of hardworking Cordova coal miners to earn a living for their families.16Roosevelt shot back defiantly that at least he wasn’t “guilty of a crime against our children,” the handing down of a “wasted heritage.”17

Roosevelt applauded the isolated efforts of some states to protect wildlife populations, such as Montana’s attempts to save bison and Alaska’s efforts to protect fur seals. According to Roosevelt, Vermont—the home state of the conservationists George Perkins Marsh and Charles Sheldon—had been heroic in managing its white-tailed deer population. But as a whole, the United States had a woeful record with regard to big-game preservation. To Roosevelt’s dismay, Territorial Governor Walter Eli Clark of Alaska, a trigger-happy boomer without a conservationist bone in his body, was trying to abolish the law on Kodiak Island protecting brown bears. Clark’s attempt was for the supposed benefit of settlers, but if bears were a problem, control them, Rooseveltians insisted; don’t market-slaughter them for profit. The Boone and Crockett Club formed yet another committee—led by Charles Sheldon—to save Alaska’s brown bears, to treat them as game to be managed, not predators to be slaughtered. “The brown bears are the greatest attraction to visiting sportsmen in Alaska, and as living animals, are worth infinitely more to natives and the white population of Alaska,” Madison Grant, of the Hunt Club, wrote to Dr. E. Lester Jones, of the Department of Commerce, in 1915, regarding a bill then before Congress proposing to transfer the care of Alaska’s brown bears from the Biological Survey (which offered protection) to the Bureau of Fisheries (which would eliminate them as a nuisance to the industry).18

Alaskans who loved the outdoors life needed to undertake a relentless war against air polluters, land degraders, and market hunters. There should be no cowering or compromising with regard to species extinction. “The wild antelope and the prairie chicken are on the point of following the wild bison and the passenger pigeon into memory,” Roosevelt said. “Our rich men should realize that to import a Rembrandt or Raphael into the country is in no shape or way such a service at this moment as to spend the money which such a picture costs in helping either the missionary movement as a whole, or else parts of it, such as the preservation of the prongbuck [pronghorn antelope, Antilocapra americana] or the activities of the Audubon Society on behalf of gulls and terns.”19

Championing individual species in peril, Roosevelt lamented the declining populations of the whooping crane, bald eagle, and California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). Taking a step in the right direction, New York had recently passed the Audubon Plumage Law of 1910, banning the sale of plumes of all native birds for the millinery trade.20 Roosevelt was nevertheless concerned that the Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) off the coast of Maine, which had distinctive black-and-white plumage and a colorful, almost clownlike beak, had been extirpated. American citizens, he argued, shouldn’t have to travel all the way to Newfoundland or Labrador to see a puffin breeding ground. Roosevelt called for “international agreements” among all the nations of the western hemisphere to “put down the iniquitous feather trade.” This was a direct jab at ex-president Taft for having canceled the World Conservation Congress. As Roosevelt said in Outlook, it was “inconceivable” that “civilized people should permit [this feather trade] to exist.”21 To Roosevelt, the “bird cities” in the 1,200-mile Aleutian chain, where three species of cormorants existed, along with colonies of murres, auklets, kittiwakes, and glaucous-winged gulls (Larus glaucescens), constituted one of God’s great spectacles.22

Roosevelt was struck by a chapter in Our Vanishing Wild Life called “The Guerrillas of Destruction.” In military contexts, a guerrilla fighter is one who refuses to recognize civilized rules of engagement. In Hornaday’s mind (and in Roosevelt’s), hunters and plumers who ignored the sportsman’s ethos were like guerrillas. Oology, the collecting of bird eggs by the thousands, had to be banned. Hornaday did an impressive job of describing the culprits, identifying many by name. He aimed an entire chapter at Italian immigrants who had brought an Old World practice of market slaughter to the New World. Hornaday itemized what types of dead birds a consumer could purchase in a Venetian or Florentine market, and the chapter made for grim reading. According to Hornaday, the American South was also willfully ignoring game laws. Robins were being systematically shot and eaten in Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Texas, and Florida by the hundreds of thousands. In Dallas, Texas, a man named F. L. Crow led torchlight bird hunts along the Trinity River; on one occasion, his group killed 10,517 birds in slightly over two hours—just for the hell of it. Roosevelt’s friend Edward A. McIlhenny, owner of the company that made Tabasco sauce, complained that on Avery Island, Louisiana, 10,000 robins a day were slaughtered to be sold at roadside stands in the nearby town of New Iberia for ten cents apiece. “We must stop all the holes in the barrel,” Hornaday fumed, “or eventually lose all the water. No group of bird-slaughterers is entitled to immunity.”23

Hornaday offered gruesome capsule biographies of the “guerrillas,” whom he identified by name. With Roosevelt’s strong approval, in fact, Hornaday issued an Eleventh Commandment, an “inexorable law” that every generation of American conservationists needed to absorb: No wild species of birds, mammals, reptile, or fish can withstand exploitation for commercial purposes.24 In Alaska this meant that the harvesting of northern fur seals and sea otters had to be curtailed. The Aleutian Islands Reservation was established for that purpose in 1913, to end the “exhaustion” of wildlife resources. Furthermore, the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey (which would become the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1940)—following the model established by TR at Pelican Island, Florida, in 1903—created a reindeer reserve on Alaska’s Unalaska and Umnak islands.25

Another virtue of Our Vanishing Wild Life, from TR’s perspective, was that Hornaday described the pioneering accomplishments of the Roosevelt administration in species protection. (Gifford Pinchot, by contrast, was focused on forestry and had failed to recount these federal bird reservations in his memoir, Breaking New Ground.)* Hornaday explicitly praised Roosevelt for saving Wind Cave, the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, and Mesa Verde (among other American wonders), and detailed how the activist warrior of the Antiquities Act of 1906 had fought to save such treasures as Jewel Cave, Montezuma Castle, Tumacacori, El Morro, Chaco Canyon, the Gila Cliff Dwellings, Muir Woods, Pinnacles, Cinder Cone, and Lassen Peak. Roosevelt had established the national monument designation as a sort of way station to protect areas he hoped would eventually become national parks. Two of Alaska’s most spectacular national parks—Katmai and Glacier Bay—were monuments first. Other impressive national parks, such as Washington’s Olympic, Arizona’s Grand Canyon, and California’s Death Valley, also began as national monuments.

Hornaday also included a chart of the fifty-one federal bird reservations created by Roosevelt from 1903 to 1909, and credited the ex-president with developing the U.S. government’s wildlife protection ethos by way of the Boone and Crockett Club and the National Association of Audubon Societies. In Alaska alone, Roosevelt’s bird sanctuaries—Tuxedni (Chisik and Duck islands in Cook Inlet), Saint Lazaria Island, Bering Sea (Saint Matthew Island Group), Pribilof (Walrus and Otter islands), Bogoslof, and the vast marshlike Yukon Delta—would eventually become parts of two national wildlife refuges: the Alaska Maritime NWR and Yukon Delta NWR. “These reservations,” Hornaday wrote, “are of immense value to bird life, and their creation represents the highest possible wisdom in utilizing otherwise valueless portions of the national domain.”26

The Alaskan wilderness was, unquestionably, still an Eden-like paradise in 1913, what a future U.S. Fish and Wildlife director, Ira N. Gabrielson, would call a “living zoological museum.”27 But that positive assessment didn’t take account of the seal, otter, and walrus rookeries, which were under assault by market hunters. Using statistical graphs, Hornaday made vividly clear in Our Vanishing Wild Life the high percentages of walrus and seal populations in jeopardy. The prognosis for species survival was unfavorable. In Hornaday’s mind (as in the minds of Roosevelt, Sheldon, and other conservationists), there were “fatal defects” in Alaskan game laws circa 1913. For example, as part of a reparations strategy, First Nation tribes enjoyed an exemption from bag limits in Alaska. Tribes were legally allowed to shoot anything that moved. Hornaday recounted the experience of the conservationist and hunter Frank Kleinschmidt at Sand Point on the Kenai Peninsula: he saw eighty-two caribou tongues piled up in a Native Alaskan’s canoe, brought to market to sell for fifty cents apiece. He was aghast at this casual carnage. “The carcasses were left where they fell, to poison the air of Alaska,” Hornaday wrote of the market hunters. In contrast, he praised the outcome of regulated sports hunting: “Thanks to the game law, and five wardens, the number of big game animals killed last year in Alaska by sportsmen was reasonably small—just as it should have been.”28

Both Hornaday and Roosevelt were adamant that Sitka deer (Odocoileus hemonius sitkensis), which lived in southeastern Alaska, be allowed to roam thousands of miles on protected U.S. government land unmolested by market hunters. They were part of what Roosevelt called America’s “deer family.” The U.S. Department of the Interior had an obligation, they believed, to allow only a very limited hunting season for Sitka deer in the Tongass and Chugach national forests. Such a position was not viewed favorably by Alaska’s residents, many of whom believed the federal government had no right telling a citizen of the territory what he could or couldn’t shoot. Game management seemed to them like something conceived by Karl Marx. An ex-governor of Alaska, in fact, explicitly protested that Rooseveltian conservation with regard to Sitka deer and moose was socialistic. In a rugged territory like Alaska, the argument went, a man had a right, under the Second Amendment, to follow a buck and pull the trigger. “The preservation of the game of Alaska should be left to the people of Alaska,” a territorial ex-governor argued. “It is their game; and they will preserve it all right!”

In Our Vanishing Wild Life, Hornaday outlined the flaws he saw in that stance against the federal government:

1. The game of Alaska does not belong to the people who live in Alaska—with the intent to get out tomorrow!

2. The preservation of the Alaskan fauna on the public domain should not be left unreservedly to the people of Alaska because . . .

3. As sure as shooting, they will not preserve it!29

Hornaday wanted the sale of all game to be prohibited in Alaska: even an Arctic prairie billy (a Euroamerican subsistence settler) or an Eskimo should be allowed to shoot only what he or she would personally eat. This was a very extreme, uncompromising stance. Hornaday and Roosevelt believed that market hunters, such as those who were killing off Bering Sea walrus for ivory and hides, should be arrested. Roosevelt also wanted to quadruple the number of wildlife wardens in Alaska. To protect seal rookeries, the Rooseveltian conservationists wanted taxpayers to provide the Biological Survey with two state-of-the-art vessels to patrol the 34,000 miles of Alaskan coastline. Poachers should be arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned. Congress, these conservationists argued, should immediately appropriate $50,000 for increased law enforcement to protect Alaskan wildlife. The sportsman’s code was coming to Alaska. “It is no longer right nor just for Indians, miners, and prospectors to be permitted by law to kill all the big game they please,” Hornaday wrote, “whenever they please.”30

Alaska’s declining bear population was also worrisome. There were no biological underpinnings to Alaska’s policies for controlling predators; just shoot what moved. Once statehood was achieved in 1959, Alaska’s bear population was appropriately managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) and the Division of Wildlife Conservation established by the Board of Game (BOG). But in 1913, it was open season all 365 days of the year for the rancher-prospectors whose tools were rope, harness, sheep dip, branding iron, nail kegs, sledgehammers, and hunting rifles. Although the smaller black bear (Ursus americanus) still wandered across coastal and interior Alaska, intriguing subspecies such as the blue bear (Ursus arctos pruinosus) of the Saint Elias Mountains were in decline. The coastal ranges were thick with brown bear subspecies, with variations depending on geography: Kodiak bears (on Kodiak), Kidder bears (on Alaska Peninsula), the Admiralty bear (on Admiralty Island), and the Sitka bear (on Baranof Island). Mammalogists were working around the clock trying to create a brown bear sanctuary on Admiralty Island in Alaska to help these mammals survive market hunting.31

“I think that the attention of the Game Committee of the Boone and Crockett Club should be called to the very dangerous situation as regards bears of Alaska,” Charles Sheldon wrote to George Bird Grinnell in 1918, “which, at any time, may be threatened with extermination in the coast region.”32

While Sheldon was the point man for protecting Alaska’s bear populations, Grinnell had become the established voice on properly managing the territory’s salmon. The problems were many. To Grinnell’s utter horror, Alaskan fishermen would shoot any bear they encountered along a stream or shoreline because the bruins were competing with their commercial nets, lines, and traps. Grinnell told how, adding insult to injury, Alaskan fishermen used only about 20 percent of the salmon they caught, keeping only the choice belly meat and discarding the rest. To Grinnell, a veteran of the conflicts of 1880 to 1909 over protecting bison, the Alaskans’ professed belief—mistaken and possibly disingenuous—that salmon were abundant was all too familiar.33 According to Grinnell, if Alaskan fisheries weren’t managed properly, the salmon—sockeye, chinook, coho, pink, and chum—would die out.

What really set Roosevelt’s teeth on edge wasn’t just the vanishing bear and salmon populations. It was also President Woodrow Wilson’s cavalier attitude toward the Tongass and Chugach national forests; it suggested cowardice (like Taft’s) masquerading as blissful superiority. Wilson, a bespectacled Princetonian indoorsman, had the temerity to dismiss better-informed outdoorsmen who argued that the federal government should save vast swaths of wild Alaska for future generations. Roosevelt—who thought most Alaskan lands should be federally owned—seethed when Wilson delivered his first state of the union address in December 1913, sounding like a pitchman for Morganheim. “Alaska as a storehouse, should be unlocked,” Wilson announced. “We must use the resources of the country, not lock them up.”34

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