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Teddy Roosevelt Invites Head of the A.M.A. to First “Conference on the Conservation of Natural Resources” (SOLD)
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“the conference ought to rank among the more important meetings in the history of the country... practically all of the Governors...will attend the conference...Senators and Representatives... Justices of the Supreme Court, and the members of the Cabinet have also been invited to take part...” 

THEODORE ROOSEVELT. Typed Letter Signed as President, to Joseph D. Bryant, president of the American Medical Association, Washington, D.C., March 14, 1908. 2 pp., 7 x 9 in., On White House letterhead. With Bryant’s draft of his acceptance letter, noting the medical community’s agreement that protecting the environment is “essential to human life and prosperity.”

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            “Recently I invited the Governors of the States and Territories to meet in the White House on May 13 - 15 next in a conference on the Conservation of Natural Resources. In issuing the invitation, I expressed the opinion that there is urgent need of taking stock of our resources, and added my belief that the conference ought to rank among the more important meetings in the history of the country.

            The replies to the invitation have been most gratifying. They indicate that practically all of the Governors, each with their special advisers, will attend the conference. The Senators and Representatives of the Sixtieth Congress, the Justices of the Supreme Court, and the members of the Cabinet have also been invited to take part; and the Inland Waterways Commission, which suggested the conference, will be present to reply to inquiries and make record of the proceedings. A limited number of leading associations of national scope concerned with our natural resources will be invited to send one representative each to take part in the discussions. The general purpose of the conference is indicated on pages 24-26 of the preliminary report of the Waterways Commission, of which a copy is enclosed. [not present]

            I invite the cooperation of the American Medical Association in bringing this matter before the people; and it gives me added pleasure to invite you as President of the Association to take part in the conference.

                        Sincerely yours,

                        Theodore Roosevelt”

Historical Background

In 1907, President Roosevelt and his friend and ally, conservationist Gifford Pinchot, created an Inland Waterways Commission charged with preparing “a comprehensive plan for the improvement and control of the river systems of the United States.” One of its duties was inspecting the nation’s major rivers and lakes. On one such trip, on the Mississippi River, Roosevelt and Pinchot announced plans to organize aconference on resource management.

The conference to which Theodore Roosevelt invited the governors of the states and territories was, in fact, the first Conference of Governors, held in the White House on May 13-15, 1908.  Progressive-era conservationist Gifford Pinchot, at that time Chief Forester of the U.S., provided major impetus for the conference. He believed in the scientific and efficient management of natural resources by the federal government. In November 1907, Roosevelt had issued invitations to the governors, so this invitation to American Medical Association president Joseph D.  Bryant was late in coming as the conference drew nearer and the second round of attendees were added. Nevertheless, Bryant advocated for the maintenance of potable water supplies and sanitary conditions as public health measures, as well as conservation policy over resource degradation. This 1908 meeting was the beginning of the annual governors' conferences, now held by the National Governors Association.

Roosevelt delivered the opening address, “Conservation as a National Duty,” which focused on the proper use of natural resources to maintain supplies over time.

“This Conference on the conservation of natural resources is in effect a meeting of the representatives of all the people of the United States called to consider the weightiest problem now before the Nation....the fact that the natural resources of our country are in danger of exhaustion if we permit the old wasteful methods of exploiting them longer to continue....

In the development, the use, and therefore the exhaustion of certain of the natural resources, the progress has been more rapid in the past century and a quarter than during all preceding time....

Our knowledge and use of the resources of the present territory of the United States have increased a hundred-fold....Its growth has been due to the rapid development, and alas that it should be said, to the rapid destruction, of our natural resources. Nature has supplied to us in the United States, and still supplies to us, more kinds of resources in a more lavish degree than has ever been the case at any other time or with any other people....but we are more, and not less, dependent upon what she furnishes than at any previous time of history....

Let us remember that the conservation of our natural resources, though the gravest problem of today, 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—the problem of national efficiency, the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the Nation.”

Other speakers included leading industrialists, the governors, and resource management experts. Most emphasized the need to exploit renewable resources sensibly, as well as varying conditions in diverse states that necessitated different plans.

The conference brought issues of conservation to the public’s attention and was a pivotal moment in conservation history. Within 30 days, Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot began inviting experts to join the Commission on the Conservation of Natural Resources, and by the following year the National Conservation Commission was established. Pinchot was chairman of the group that included with representatives from the states and Federal agencies, as well as the First National Conservation Congress, which Pinchot led as an assembly of private conservation interests.

In 1909 the Commission submitted to Roosevelt a systematic study of the nation’s mineral, water, forest, and soil resources, the first such overview in American history. There were some surprises – the Forest Committee revealed that annual timber cutting exceeded annual growth of timber by 250%. However, when Roosevelt left office in early 1909, Congress became less interested in conservation, and Pinchot became involved in the controversy that rocked William H. Taft’s administration – Taft eventually (Roosevelt felt, wrongfully) fired him. The momentum for conservation transferred to the states, with many forming their own commissions. The system of national forests, and the development of the idea that the federal government was uniquely qualified to study and manage land use, constituted a vital legacy from Roosevelt’s pioneering policies.


A typed draft reply by Bryant to the president, 3 pp. 8 ½ x 11 in., New York, May 18, 1908.

Bryant cites the need for maintenance of potable water supplies and maintenance of sanitary conditions, and congratulates Roosevelt on his efforts to support. “the conservation of natural resources concerns the members of the medical that of earnest professional desire to conserve and enhance in every regard the comfort and health of our people....The sanitary problems relating to the forests, the fields ,and the streams of the country are matters of established significance...abundant and potable waters are essential to human life and prosperity, and that superabundant and uncontrollable waters contribute to primary disaster and to subsequent disease and poverty admit of no denial; also that impure water and impure ice harbor germs of disease to which the careless, the ignorant, and the helpless are continually exposed...”


Very Good. A fold, some minor soiling, and two pencil marks.