Op-Ed: How the U.S. came to protect the natural world — and exploit it at the same time
By: Daniel B. Kovalik Published: August 20, 2013
As the U.S. prepares to mark July 4th as America’s birthday, it’s worth remembering how, throughout our history, nature has been used for the benefit of all of us. How, when, and by whom we’ve benefited from it is a subject that, in many ways, doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. Indeed, it is one that is often overlooked on the Fourth.
It was in 1856 that President Franklin Pierce issued Proclamation No. 2 that declared the United States open for settlement of lands west of the Mississippi River. This meant that settlers from the east could set up new homesteads, and start life anew. It was also an act that would allow the nation’s first citizens to claim all of America’s national lands. But it was also a proclamation that would allow for the further development of the American West. The United States had a deep and complex past with this land, and this wasn’t the first time the United States had been asked, and responded, to protect our country’s natural resources.
This is not the first time that the U.S. has used its power to ensure the sustainable use of the land from which it draws its power.
The history of the U.S. and its use of the land that would become the nation’s Southwest had started long before Franklin Pierce declared the western territory an American commonwealth. The first settlers had already arrived in what would become the Southwest. A group of settlers traveled by wagon to a place in Wyoming called Cheyenne, and settled in what would become what would become the Cheyenne Frontier. This was the first of many areas where the United States put effort into making sure that settlers would be