I. Conservation is the careful management of natural resources such as air, water, soil, forests, minerals,
A. During the 1700s and early 1800s, most Americans had a frontier attitude, a desire to
conquer and exploit nature as quickly as possible.
B. During the 19th century, many United States naturalists began to be concerned about
conserving natural resources.
1. John James Audubon aroused widespread public interest in the wildlife of North
America (before 1850).
2. Henry David Thoreau wrote about living in harmony with the natural world.
3. George Perkins Marsh wrote about humans as agents of environmental change in his
1864 book, “Man and Nature”.
C. Conservation became a popular movement during the early 20th century, as far back as
1875 with the founding of the American Forestry Assoc.
D. The earliest conservation legislation revolved around protecting land — forests, parks, and
1. The General Revision Act of 1891 gave the president the authority to establish forest
reserves on public land.
a. Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt employed
this law to put almost 24 million hectares aside as national forests. Irate
congresscreatures from the Northwest passed legislation in 1907
canceling the president’s authority to designate additional federal public
lands as national forests. Immediately thereafter T. Roosevelt created
21 new national forests (w/ 16 million acres), after which he signed the
b. Theodore Roosevelt appointed Gifford Pinchot as the first head of the U.S.
Forest Service. Pinchot supported expanding the nation's forest
reserves and managing forests scientifically. Among other views, he
advocated sustainable harvesting of forests - not leaving forests entirely
c. Today, national forests have multiple uses, from biological habitats to
recreation to timber harvest to cattle grazing.
2. Yellowstone National Park, the world's first national park, was established in 1872.
a. The Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks were established in California in
1890, largely in response to the efforts of naturalist John Muir, who
also founded the Sierra Club.
b. The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorized the president to set aside national
monuments with scientific, historic, or prehistoric importance, e.g., the
Badlands of S. Dakota.
c. The National Park Service was created in 1916 to manage United States
national parks and monuments.
d. Today there are 54 national parks and 72 national monuments. E. Franklin Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.
Workers planted trees (largely to reduce wind erosion; see below.), made paths and
roads in national parks and forests, and built dams to control flooding.
F. The Dust Bowl during the 1930s called attention to the need for soil conservation. To
address this issue, Franklin Roosevelt established the Soil Conservation Service, now
renamed as the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
G. Aldo Leopold was very influential in the conservation movement of the mid- to late-20th
century. In A Sand County Almanac, published in 1949, he wrote philosophically
about humanity's relationship with nature and about the need to conserve wilderness
areas. He also wrote a textbook on game management and supported taxes on
weapons and ammo to fund wildlife management and research. Again, this was early
enough in the history of the environmental movement that almost nobody was arguing
against any use of either wildlife or forests. The argument was in favor of “wise u