Roosevelt had a lifelong interest in the environment and conservation starting with his youthful interest in forestry on his family estate. As governor and president, he launched numerous projects for conservation, in the name of protecting the environment, and providing beauty and jobs for the people. He was strengthened in his resolve by the model of his cousin Theodore Roosevelt. Although FDR was never an outdoorsman or sportsman on TR's scale, his growth of the national systems were comparable. FDR created 140 national wildlife refuges (especially for birds) and established 29 national forests and 29 national parks and monuments. He thereby achieved the vision he had set out in 1931:
Heretofore our conservation policy has been merely to preserve as much as possible of the existing forests. Our new policy goes a step further. It will not only preserve the existing forests, but create new ones.
As president, he was active in expanding, funding, and promoting the National Park and National Forest systems. He used relief agencies to upgrade the facilities. Their popularity soared, from three million visitors a year at the start of the decade, to 15.5 million in 1939. His favorite agency was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which expended most of its effort on environmental projects. The CCC in a dozen years enrolled 3.4 million young men; they built 13,000 miles of trails, planted two billion trees and upgraded 125,000 miles of dirt roads. Every state had its own state parks, and Roosevelt made sure that WPA and CCC projects were set up to upgrade them as well as the national systems.
Roosevelt heavily funded the system of dams to provide flood control, electricity, and modernization of rural communities through the Tennessee Valley Authority, as well as less famous projects transforming western rivers. He was a great dam builder, although 21st century critics would see this as the antithesis of conservation.
The rejection of the League of Nations treaty in 1919 marked the dominance of isolationism from world organizations in American foreign policy. Despite Roosevelt's Wilsonian background, he and Secretary of State Cordell Hull acted with great care not to provoke isolationist sentiment. Roosevelt's "bombshell" message to the world monetary conference in 1933 effectively ended any major efforts by the world powers to collaborate on ending the worldwide depression, and allowed Roosevelt a free hand in economic policy. Roosevelt was a lifelong free-trader and anti-imperialist. Ending European colonialism was one of his objectives.
The main foreign policy initiative of Roosevelt's first term was the Good Neighbor Policy, which was a re-evaluation of U.S. policy towards Latin America. Since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, this area had been seen as an American sphere of influence. American forces were withdrawn from Haiti, and new treaties with Cuba and Panama ended their status as U.S. protectorates. In December 1933, Roosevelt signed the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, renouncing the right to intervene unilaterally in the affairs of Latin American countries.
The isolationist movement was bolstered in the early to mid-1930s by U.S. Senator Gerald Nye and others who succeeded in their effort to stop the "merchants of death" in the U.S. from selling arms abroad. This effort took the form of the Neutrality Acts; the president asked for, but was refused, a provision to give him the discretion to allow the sale of arms to victims of aggression. In the interim, Italy under Benito Mussolini proceeded to overcome Ethiopia, and the Italians joined Nazi Germany in supporting the General Franco and the Nationalist cause in the Spanish Civil War. In 1936 Germany and Japan signed a Anti-Comintern Pact, but they never coordinated their strategies. Congress passed, and the president signed, a mandatory arms embargo at a time when dictators in Europe and Asia were girding for world war.
Party affiliation: Democratic Party