Book review: 'Rightful Heritage' shines as a narrative of FDR's conservationist passion

Posted April 20, 2016

"RIGHTFUL HERITAGE: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America," by Douglas Brinkley, Harper, $35, 744 pages (nf)

Following his critically acclaimed look at Theodore Roosevelt's wilderness conservation crusade in "The Wilderness Warrior," author Douglas Brinkley has continued the story by turning to the similar efforts by Teddy's distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in "Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America."

Much has been written on FDR's remarkable accomplishments as he led the United States through World War II and pulled the nation out of the Great Depression, but "Rightful Heritage" chronicles his unsung legacy as a guardian of nature. With thorough, scalpel-precise research on the depth of Roosevelt's dedication to trees, animals and waterways, Brinkley guides readers through the U.S. president's life from boyhood through the presidency, with particular focus paid to the creation and work of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

One would expect that the notable events and politics of Roosevelt's presidency would warrant some discussion, but Brinkley glosses over the facts with which his audience is most familiar, using them merely as context for Roosevelt's environmental achievements. Pearl Harbor, for example, is only briefly mentioned before Brinkley dives in to the simultaneous establishment of a moose range in Alaska. If readers knew nothing about Roosevelt outside of what "Rightful Heritage" describes, they would hardly know there was a war during his presidency, or they might get the sense that he was neglectful of nonconservation duties.

Douglas strikes a difficult balance in "Rightful Heritage," including a heavy amount of detail without overwhelming the reader or slowing down the narrative. The story flows naturally while laying a solid case that FDR's conservation contributions are just as important as the more recognized efforts of Theodore Roosevelt.

"Rightful Heritage" is an excellent read for those who are interested in a nontraditional narrative about Franklin D. Roosevelt or who are passionate about wildlife preservation. For those seeking a more well-rounded overview of his life, politics and accomplishments, other books would be more fitting.

"Rightful Heritage" doesn't contain any foul language, violence or sexual innuendo.

Jennifer Ball is a freelance journalist out of Los Angeles specializing in food criticism and LDS media.


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