The conservation movement, also known as nature conservation, is a
political, environmental, and social movement that seeks to protect
natural resources including animal and plant species as well as their
habitat for the future.
The early conservation movement included fisheries and wildlife
management, water, soil conservation, and sustainable forestry. The
contemporary conservation movement has broadened from the early
movement's emphasis on use of sustainable yield of natural resources
and preservation of wilderness areas to include preservation of
biodiversity. Some say the conservation movement is part of the
broader and more far-reaching environmental movement, while others
argue that they differ both in ideology and practice. Chiefly in the
United States, conservation is seen as differing from environmentalism
in that it aims to preserve natural resources expressly for their
continued sustainable use by humans. Outside the U.S. the term
conservation more broadly includes environmentalism.
1.1 Early history
1.2 Origins of the modern conservation movement
1.3 Conservation in the United States
1.3.1 Since 1970
2 Areas of concern
2.1 Boreal forest and the Arctic
2.2 Latin America (Bolivia)
2.3 Africa (Botswana)
3 See also
5 Further reading
5.1 Regional studies
5.1.3 Latin America
5.1.4 Europe and Russia
5.1.5 United States
6 External links
See also: Timeline of environmental events
Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber in
His Majesty's Dominions, title page of the first edition (1664).
The conservation movement can be traced back to John Evelyn's work
Sylva, presented as a paper to the
Royal Society in 1662. Published as
a book two years later, it was one of the most highly influential
texts on forestry ever published. Timber resources in England were
becoming dangerously depleted at the time, and Evelyn advocated the
importance of conserving the forests by managing the rate of depletion
and ensuring that the cut down trees get replenished.
The field developed during the 18th century, especially in
France where scientific forestry methods were developed. These methods
were first applied rigorously in
British India from the early-19th
century. The government was interested in the use of forest produce
and began managing the forests with measures to reduce the risk of
wildfire in order to protect the "household" of nature, as it was then
termed. This early ecological idea was in order to preserve the growth
of delicate teak trees, which was an important resource for the Royal
Navy. Concerns over teak depletion were raised as early as 1799 and
1805 when the Navy was undergoing a massive expansion during the
Napoleonic Wars; this pressure led to the first formal conservation
Act, which prohibited the felling of small teak trees. The first
forestry officer was appointed in 1806 to regulate and preserve the
trees necessary for shipbuilding. This promising start received a
setback in the 1820s and 30s, when laissez-faire economics and
complaints from private landowners brought these early conservation
attempts to an end.
Origins of the modern conservation movement
Conservation was revived in the mid-19th century, with the first
practical application of scientific conservation principles to the
forests of India. The conservation ethic that began to evolve included
three core principles: that human activity damaged the environment,
that there was a civic duty to maintain the environment for future
generations, and that scientific, empirically based methods should be
applied to ensure this duty was carried out. Sir James Ranald Martin
was prominent in promoting this ideology, publishing many
medico-topographical reports that demonstrated the scale of damage
wrought through large-scale deforestation and desiccation, and
lobbying extensively for the institutionalization of forest
conservation activities in
British India through the establishment of
Edward Percy Stebbing
Edward Percy Stebbing warned of desertification
of India. The
Madras Board of Revenue started local conservation
efforts in 1842, headed by Alexander Gibson, a professional botanist
who systematically adopted a forest conservation program based on
scientific principles. This was the first case of state management of
forests in the world.
These local attempts gradually received more attention by the British
government as the unregulated felling of trees continued unabated. In
British Association in Edinburgh formed a committee to study
forest destruction at the behest of Dr. Hugh Cleghorn a pioneer in the
nascent conservation movement.
He had become interested in forest conservation in
Mysore in 1847 and
gave several lectures at the Association on the failure of agriculture
in India. These lectures influenced the government under
Governor-General Lord Dalhousie to introduce the first permanent and
large-scale forest conservation program in the world in 1855, a model
that soon spread to other colonies, as well the United States. In the
same year, Cleghorn organised the
Madras Forest Department and in 1860
the Department banned the use shifting cultivation. Cleghorn's 1861
manual, The forests and gardens of South India, became the definitive
work on the subject and was widely used by forest assistants in the
subcontinent. In 1861, the Forest Department extended its remit
into the Punjab.
Schlich, in the middle of the seated row, with students from the
forestry school at Oxford, on a visit to the forests of Saxony in the
Sir Dietrich Brandis, a German forester, joined the British service in
1856 as superintendent of the teak forests of Pegu division in eastern
Burma. During that time Burma's teak forests were controlled by
militant Karen tribals. He introduced the "taungya" system, in
which Karen villagers provided labour for clearing, planting and
weeding teak plantations. After seven years in Burma, Brandis was
appointed Inspector General of Forests in India, a position he served
in for 20 years. He formulated new forest legislation and helped
establish research and training institutions. The Imperial Forest
Dehradun was founded by him.
Germans were prominent in the forestry administration of British
India. As well as Brandis,
Berthold Ribbentrop and Sir William P.D.
Schlich brought new methods to Indian conservation, the latter
becoming the Inspector-General in 1883 after Brandis stepped down.
Schlich helped to establish the journal
Indian Forester in 1874, and
became the founding director of the first forestry school in England
at Cooper's Hill in 1885. He authored the five-volume Manual of
Forestry (1889–96) on silviculture, forest management, forest
protection, and forest utilisation, which became the standard and
enduring textbook for forestry students.
Conservation in the United States
F. V. Hayden's map of Yellowstone National Park, 1871.
Main article: Conservation in the United States
The American movement received its inspiration from 19th century works
that exalted the inherent value of nature, quite apart from human
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) made key philosophical
contributions that exalted nature. Thoreau was interested in peoples'
relationship with nature and studied this by living close to nature in
a simple life. He published his experiences in the book Walden, which
argued that people should become intimately close with nature. The
ideas of Sir Brandis,
Sir William P.D. Schlich
Sir William P.D. Schlich and Carl A. Schenck
were also very influential - Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the
USDA Forest Service, relied heavily upon Brandis' advice for
introducing professional forest management in the U.S. and on how to
structure the Forest Service.
Both conservationists and preservationists appeared in political
debates during the
Progressive Era (the 1890s—early 1920s). There
were three main positions. The laissez-faire position held that owners
of private property—including lumber and mining companies, should be
allowed to do anything they wished for their property.
The conservationists, led by future President
Theodore Roosevelt and
his close ally George Bird Grinnell, were motivated by the wanton
waste that was taking place at the hand of market forces, including
logging and hunting. This practice resulted in placing a large
number of North American game species on the edge of extinction.
Roosevelt recognized that the laissez-faire approach of the U.S.
Government was too wasteful and inefficient. In any case, they noted,
most of the natural resources in the western states were already owned
by the federal government. The best course of action, they argued, was
a long-term plan devised by national experts to maximize the long-term
economic benefits of natural resources. To accomplish the mission,
Roosevelt and Grinnell formed the
Boone and Crockett Club
Boone and Crockett Club in 1887. The
Club was made up of the best minds and influential men of the day. The
Boone and Crockett Club's contingency of conservationists, scientists,
politicians, and intellectuals became Roosevelt's closest advisers
during his march to preserve wildlife and habitat across North
America. Preservationists, led by
John Muir (1838–1914), argued
that the conservation policies were not strong enough to protect the
interest of the natural world because they continued to focus on the
natural world as a source of economic production.
The debate between conservation and preservation reached its peak in
the public debates over the construction of California's Hetch Hetchy
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park which supplies the water supply of San
Francisco. Muir, leading the Sierra Club, declared that the valley
must be preserved for the sake of its beauty: "No holier temple has
ever been consecrated by the heart of man."
President Roosevelt put conservationist issue high on the national
agenda. He worked with all the major figures of the movement,
especially his chief advisor on the matter,
Gifford Pinchot and was
deeply committed to conserving natural resources. He encouraged the
Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902 to promote federal construction of
dams to irrigate small farms and placed 230 million acres
(360,000 mi2 or 930,000 km2) under federal protection.
Roosevelt set aside more federal land for national parks and nature
preserves than all of his predecessors combined.
Roosevelt established the
United States Forest Service, signed into
law the creation of five national parks, and signed the year 1906
Antiquities Act, under which he proclaimed 18 new national monuments.
He also established the first 51 bird reserves, four game preserves,
and 150 national forests, including Shoshone National Forest, the
nation's first. The area of the
United States that he placed under
public protection totals approximately 230,000,000 acres
Gifford Pinchot had been appointed by McKinley as chief of Division of
Forestry in the Department of Agriculture. In 1905, his department
gained control of the national forest reserves. Pinchot promoted
private use (for a fee) under federal supervision. In 1907, Roosevelt
designated 16 million acres (65,000 km2) of new national forests
just minutes before a deadline.
In May 1908, Roosevelt sponsored the
Conference of Governors held in
the White House, with a focus on natural resources and their most
efficient use. Roosevelt delivered the opening address: "Conservation
as a National Duty.".
In 1903 Roosevelt toured the Yosemite Valley with John Muir, who had a
very different view of conservation, and tried to minimize commercial
use of water resources and forests. Working through the
Sierra Club he
founded, Muir succeeded in 1905 in having Congress transfer the
Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley to the federal government.
While Muir wanted nature preserved for its own sake, Roosevelt
subscribed to Pinchot's formulation, "to make the forest produce the
largest amount of whatever crop or service will be most useful, and
keep on producing it for generation after generation of men and
Theodore Roosevelt's view on conservationism remained dominant for
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt authorised the building of many
large-scale dams and water projects, as well as the expansion of the
National Forest System to buy out sub-marginal farms. In 1937, the
Pittman–Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act was signed
into law, providing funding for state agencies to carry out their
Environmental reemerged on the national agenda in 1970, with
Richard Nixon playing a major role, especially with his
creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. The debates over the
public lands and environmental politics played a supporting role in
the decline of liberalism and the rise of modern environmentalism.
Although Americans consistently rank environmental issues as
"important", polling data indicates that in the voting booth voters
rank the environmental issues low relative to other political
The growth of the Republican party's political power in the inland
West (apart from the Pacific coast) was facilitated by the rise of
popular opposition to public lands reform. Successful Democrats in the
inland West and Alaska typically take more conservative positions on
environmental issues than Democrats from the Coastal states.
Conservatives drew on new organizational networks of think tanks,
industry groups, and citizen-oriented organizations, and they began to
deploy new strategies that affirmed the rights of individuals to their
property, protection of extraction rights, to hunt and recreate, and
to pursue happiness unencumbered by the federal government at the
expense of resource conservation.
Areas of concern
Deforestation and overpopulation are issues affecting all regions of
the world. The consequent destruction of wildlife habitat has prompted
the creation of conservation groups in other countries, some founded
by local hunters who have witnessed declining wildlife populations
first hand. Also, it was highly important for the conservation
movement to solve problems of living conditions in the cities and the
overpopulation of such places.
Boreal forest and the Arctic
The idea of incentive conservation is a modern one but its practice
has clearly defended some of the sub Arctic wildernesses and the
wildlife in those regions for thousands of years, especially by
indigenous peoples such as the Evenk, Yakut, Sami, Inuit and Cree. The
fur trade and hunting by these peoples have preserved these regions
for thousands of years. Ironically, the pressure now upon them comes
from non-renewable resources such as oil, sometimes to make synthetic
clothing which is advocated as a humane substitute for fur. (See
Raccoon dog for case study of the conservation of an animal through
fur trade.) Similarly, in the case of the beaver, hunting and fur
trade were thought to bring about the animal's demise, when in fact
they were an integral part of its conservation. For many years
children's books stated and still do, that the decline in the beaver
population was due to the fur trade. In reality however, the decline
in beaver numbers was because of habitat destruction and
deforestation, as well as its continued persecution as a pest (it
causes flooding). In Cree lands however, where the population valued
the animal for meat and fur, it continued to thrive. The Inuit defend
their relationship with the seal in response to outside critics.
Latin America (Bolivia)
The Izoceño-Guaraní of Santa Cruz Department,
Bolivia is a tribe of
hunters who were influential in establishing the Capitania del Alto y
Bajo Isoso (CABI). CABI promotes economic growth and survival of the
Izoceno people while discouraging the rapid destruction of habitat
within Bolivia's Gran Chaco. They are responsible for the creation of
the 34,000 square kilometre Kaa-Iya del
Gran Chaco National Park and
Integrated Management Area (KINP). The KINP protects the most
biodiverse portion of the Gran Chaco, an ecoregion shared with
Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. In 1996, the Wildlife Conservation
Society joined forces with CABI to institute wildlife and hunting
monitoring programs in 23 Izoceño communities. The partnership
combines traditional beliefs and local knowledge with the political
and administrative tools needed to effectively manage habitats. The
programs rely solely on voluntary participation by local hunters who
perform self-monitoring techniques and keep records of their hunts.
The information obtained by the hunters participating in the program
has provided CABI with important data required to make educated
decisions about the use of the land. Hunters have been willing
participants in this program because of pride in their traditional
activities, encouragement by their communities and expectations of
benefits to the area.
In order to discourage illegal South African hunting parties and
ensure future local use and sustainability, indigenous hunters in
Botswana began lobbying for and implementing conservation practices in
the 1960s. The Fauna Preservation Society of Ngamiland (FPS) was
formed in 1962 by the husband and wife team: Robert Kay and June Kay,
environmentalists working in conjunction with the Batawana tribes to
preserve wildlife habitat.
The FPS promotes habitat conservation and provides local education for
preservation of wildlife. Conservation initiatives were met with
strong opposition from the
Botswana government because of the monies
tied to big-game hunting. In 1963, BaTawanga Chiefs and tribal
hunter/adventurers in conjunction with the FPS founded Moremi National
Park and Wildlife Refuge, the first area to be set aside by tribal
people rather than governmental forces. Moremi National Park is home
to a variety of wildlife, including lions, giraffes, elephants,
buffalo, zebra, cheetahs and antelope, and covers an area of 3,000
square kilometers. Most of the groups involved with establishing this
protected land were involved with hunting and were motivated by their
personal observations of declining wildlife and habitat.
Social movements portal
Earth sciences portal
Sustainable development portal
Australian Grains Genebank
Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850–1920
List of environmental organizations
List of environment topics
U.S. National Park Service
This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain
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^ John Evelyn, Sylva, Or A Discourse of Forest Trees ... with an Essay
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his own lifetime and throughout the two centuries which have elapsed
since his death in 1706, has exerted more individual influence,
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individual." Nisbet adds that "Evelyn was by no means the first
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^ Stebbing, E.P (1922)The forests of India vol. 1, pp. 72-81
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Adams, Jonathan S.; McShane, Thomas O. Myth of Wild Africa:
Conservation without Illusion (1992) 266p; covers 1900 to 1980s
Anderson, David; Grove, Richard. Conservation in Africa: People,
Policies & Practice (1988), 355pp
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Environment and History, 10 (2004), pp. 379–406;
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Soil Erosion and Conservation in
Lesotho (2005) 346pp
Economy, Elizabeth. The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge
to China's Future (2010)
Elvin, Mark. The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of
Grove, Richard H.; Damodaran, Vinita jain; Sangwan, Satpal. Nature and
the Orient: The Environmental History of South and Southeast Asia
Johnson, Erik W., Saito, Yoshitaka, and Nishikido, Makoto.
"Organizational Demography of Japanese Environmentalism," Sociological
Inquiry, Nov 2009, Vol. 79 Issue 4, pp 481–504
Thapar, Valmik. Land of the Tiger: A Natural History of the Indian
Subcontinent (1998) 288pp
Dean, Warren. With Broadax and Firebrand: The Destruction of the
Brazilian Atlantic Forest (1997)
Funes Monzote, Reinaldo. From Rainforest to Cane Field in Cuba: An
Environmental History since 1492 (2008)
Melville, Elinor G. K. A Plague of Sheep: Environmental Consequences
of the Conquest of Mexico (2008)
Miller, Shawn William. An Environmental History of Latin America
Noss, Andrew and Imke Oetting. "Hunter Self-Monitoring by the Izoceño
-Guarani in the Bolivian Chaco".
Biodiversity & Conservation.
14.11 (2005): 2679-2693.
Simonian, Lane. Defending the Land of the Jaguar: A History of
Conservation in Mexico (1995) 326pp
Europe and Russia
Arnone Sipari, Lorenzo, Scritti scelti di Erminio Sipari sul Parco
Nazionale d'Abruzzo (1922-1933) (2011), 360pp.
Bonhomme, Brian. Forests, Peasants and Revolutionaries: Forest
Conservation & Organization in Soviet Russia, 1917-1929 (2005)
Cioc, Mark. The Rhine: An Eco-Biography, 1815-2000 (2002).
Simmons, I.G. An Environmental History of Great Britain: From 10,000
Years Ago to the Present (2001).
Weiner, Douglas R. Models of Nature: Ecology, Conservation and
Cultural Revolution in Soviet Russia (2000) 324pp; covers 1917 to
Bates, J. Leonard. "Fulfilling American Democracy: The Conservation
Movement, 1907 to 1921", The Mississippi Valley Historical Review,
(1957), 44#1 pp. 29–57. in JSTOR
Brinkley, Douglas G. The
Theodore Roosevelt and
the Crusade for America, (2009) excerpt and text search
Cawley, R. McGreggor. Federal Land, Western Anger: The Sagebrush
Rebellion and Environmental Politics (1993), on conservatives
Flippen, J. Brooks. Nixon and the Environment (2000).
Hays, Samuel P. Beauty, Health, and Permanence: Environmental Politics
in the United States, 1955–1985 (1987), the standard scholarly
Hays, Samuel P. A History of Environmental Politics since 1945 (2000),
shorter standard history
Hays, Samuel P. Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency (1959), on
King, Judson. The Conservation Fight, From
Theodore Roosevelt to the
Tennessee Valley Authority (2009)
Wilderness and the American Mind, (3rd ed. 1982), the
standard intellectual history
Pinchot, Gifford (1922). "Conservation Policy". Encyclopædia
Britannica (12th ed.).
Rothmun, Hal K. The Greening of a Nation?
Environmentalism in the
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Sellers, Christopher. Crabgrass Crucible: Suburban Nature and the Rise
Environmentalism in Twentieth-Century America (2012)
Strong, Douglas H. Dreamers & Defenders: American
Conservationists. (1988) online edition, good biographical studies of
the major leaders
Taylor, Dorceta E. The Rise of the American Conservation Movement:
Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection (Duke U.P. 2016) x, 486
Turner, James Morton, "The Specter of Environmentalism": Wilderness,
Environmental Politics, and the Evolution of the New Right. The
Journal of American History 96.1 (2009): 123-47 online at History
Barton, Gregory A. Empire,
Forestry and the Origins of
Environmentalism, (2002), covers British Empire
Bolton, Geoffrey. Spoils and Spoilers: Australians Make Their
Environment, 1788-1980 (1981) 197pp
Clover, Charles. The End of the Line: How overfishing is changing the
world and what we eat. (2004) Ebury Press, London.
Usa be lit sometimes
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Western World," Research in Economic History, 1991 Supplement 6, pp
McNeill, John R. Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History
of the Twentieth Century (2000),
Cioc, Mark, Björn-Ola Linnér, and Matt Osborn, "Environmental
History Writing in Northern Europe," Environmental History, 5 (2000),
Bess, Michael, Mark Cioc, and James Sievert, "Environmental History
Writing in Southern Europe," Environmental History, 5 (2000),
Coates, Peter. "Emerging from the
Wilderness (or, from Redwoods to
Bananas): Recent Environmental History in the
United States and the
Rest of the Americas," Environment and History, 10 (2004),
Hay, Peter. Main Currents in Western Environmental Thought (2002),
standard scholarly history excerpt and text search
McNeill, John R. "Observations on the Nature and Culture of
Environmental History," History and Theory, 42 (2003),
Robin, Libby, and Tom Griffiths, "Environmental History in
Australasia," Environment and History, 10 (2004), pp. 439–74
Worster, Donald, ed. The Ends of the Earth: Perspectives on Modern
Environmental History (1988)
A history of conservation in New Zealand
For Future Generations, a Canadian documentary on conservation and
Earth system governance
Global catastrophic risk
Human impact on the environment
Earth Overshoot Day
Sustainability marketing myopia
Systemic change resistance
Tragedy of the commons
Climate change mitigation
Sustainability metrics and indices
Standards and certification
Urban drainage systems
UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm 1972)
Brundtlandt Commission Report (1983)
Our Common Future
Our Common Future (1987)
Earth Summit (1992)
Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
Agenda 21 (1992)
Convention on Biological Diversity
Convention on Biological Diversity (1992)
ICPD Programme of Action (1994)
UN Millennium Declaration (2000)
Earth Summit 2002 (Rio+10, Johannesburg)
United Nations Conference on
Sustainable Development (Rio+20, 2012)
Sustainable Development Goals