Conservation (ethic)

Conservation is an ethic of resource use, allocation, and protection. Its primary focus is upon maintaining the health of the natural world, its fisheries, habitats, and biological diversity. Secondary focus is on material conservation, including non-renewable resources such as metals, minerals and fossil fuels, and energy conservation, which is important to protect the natural world. Those who follow the conservation ethic and, especially, those who advocate or work toward conservation goals are termed conservationists.

The terms conservation and preservation are frequently conflated outside the academic, scientific, and professional kinds of literature. The US National Park Service offers the following explanation of the important ways in which these two terms represent very different conceptions of environmental protection ethics:

″Conservation and preservation are closely linked and may indeed seem to mean the same thing. Both terms involve a degree of protection, but how that protection is carried out is the key difference. Conservation is generally associated with the protection of natural resources, while preservation is associated with the protection of buildings, objects, and landscapes. Put simply, conservation seeks the proper use of nature, while preservation seeks protection of nature from use.

During the environmental movement of the early 20th century, two opposing factions emerged: conservationists and preservationists. Conservationists sought to regulate human use while preservationists sought to eliminate human impact altogether.″[1]

Satellite photograph of industrial deforestation in the Tierras Bajas project in eastern Bolivia, using skyline logging and replacement of forests by agriculture
Hopetoun falls
Much attention has been given to preserving the natural characteristics of Hopetoun Falls, Australia, while allowing access for visitors


To conserve habitat in terrestrial ecoregions and to stop deforestation is a goal widely shared by many groups with a wide variety of motivations.

To protect sea life from extinction due to overfishing or climate change is another commonly stated goal of conservation – ensuring that "some will be available for future generations" to continue a way of life.

The consumer conservation ethic is sometimes expressed by the four R's: " Rethink, Reduce, Recycle, Repair" This social ethic primarily relates to local purchasing, moral purchasing, the sustained, and efficient use of renewable resources, the moderation of destructive use of finite resources, and the prevention of harm to common resources such as air and water quality, the natural functions of a living earth, and cultural values in a built environment.

The principal value underlying most expressions of the conservation ethic is that the natural world has intrinsic and intangible worth along with utilitarian value – a view carried forward by the scientific conservation movement and some of the older Romantic schools of ecology movement.

More Utilitarian schools of conservation seek a proper valuation of local and global impacts of human activity upon nature in their effect upon human well being, now and to posterity. How such values are assessed and exchanged among people determines the social, political, and personal restraints and imperatives by which conservation is practiced. This is a view common in the modern environmental movement.

These movements have diverged but they have deep and common roots in the conservation movement.

In the United States of America, the year 1864 saw the publication of two books which laid the foundation for Romantic and Utilitarian conservation traditions in America. The posthumous publication of Henry David Thoreau's Walden established the grandeur of unspoiled nature as a citadel to nourish the spirit of man. From George Perkins Marsh a very different book, Man and Nature, later subtitled "The Earth as Modified by Human Action", catalogued his observations of man exhausting and altering the land from which his sustenance derives.


In common usage, the term refers to the activity of systematically protecting natural resources such as forests, including biological diversity. Carl F. Jordan defines the term as:[3]

biological conservation as being a philosophy of managing the environment in a manner that does not despoil, exhaust or extinguish.

While this usage is not new, the idea of biological conservation has been applied to the principles of ecology, bio geography, anthropology, economy and sociology to maintain biodiversity.

The term "conservation" itself may cover the concepts such as cultural diversity, genetic diversity and the concept of movements environmental conservation, seedbank (preservation of seeds). These are often summarized as the priority to respect diversity, especially by Greens.

Much recent movement in conservation can be considered a resistance to commercialism and globalization. Slow Food is a consequence of rejecting these as moral priorities, and embracing a slower and more locally focused lifestyle.


Distinct trends exist regarding conservation development. While many countries' efforts to preserve species and their habitats have been government-led, those in the North Western Europe tended to arise out of the middle-class and aristocratic interest in natural history, expressed at the level of the individual and the national, regional or local learned society. Thus countries like Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, etc. had what we would today term NGOs – in the shape of the RSPB, National Trust and County Naturalists' Trusts (dating back to 1889, 1895 and 1912 respectively) Natuurmonumenten, Provincial Conservation Trusts for each Dutch province, Vogelbescherming, etc. – a long time before there were national parks and national nature reserves. This in part reflects the absence of wilderness areas in heavily cultivated Europe, as well as a longstanding interest in laissez-faire government in some countries, like the UK, leaving it as no coincidence that John Muir, the Scottish-born founder of the National Park movement (and hence of government-sponsored conservation) did his sterling work in the USA, where he was the motor force behind the establishment of such NPs as Yosemite and Yellowstone. Nowadays, officially more than 10 percent of the world is legally protected in some way or the other, and in practice, private fundraising is insufficient to pay for the effective management of so much land with protective status.

Protected areas in developing countries, where probably as many as 70–80 percent of the species of the world live, still enjoy very little effective management and protection. Some countries, such as Mexico, have non-profit civil organizations and landowners dedicated to protecting vast private property, such is the case of Hacienda Chichen's Maya Jungle Reserve and Bird Refuge[4] in Chichen Itza, Yucatán. The Adopt A Ranger Foundation has calculated that worldwide about 140,000 rangers are needed for the protected areas in developing and transition countries. There are no data on how many rangers are employed at the moment, but probably less than half the protected areas in developing and transition countries have any rangers at all and those that have them are at least 50% short This means that there would be a worldwide ranger deficit of 105,000 rangers in the developing and transition countries.

One of the world's foremost conservationists, Dr.Kenton Miller, stated about the importance of Rangers: "The future of our ecosystem services and our heritage depends upon park rangers. With the rapidity at which the challenges to protected areas are both changing and increasing, there has never been more of a need for well-prepared human capacity to manage. Park rangers are the backbone of park management. They are on the ground. They work on the front line with scientists, visitors, and members of local communities."

Adopt A Ranger,[5] fears that the ranger deficit is the greatest single limiting factor in effectively conserving nature in 75% of the world. Currently, no conservation organization or western country or international organization addresses this problem. Adopt A Ranger has been incorporated to draw worldwide public attention to the most urgent problem that conservation is facing in developing and transition countries: protected areas without field staff. Very specifically, it will contribute to solving the problem by fundraising to finance rangers in the field. It will also help governments in developing and transition countries to assess realistic staffing needs and staffing strategies.

Others, including Survival International, have advocated instead for cooperation with local tribal peoples, who are natural allies of the conservation movement and can provide cost-effective protection.[6]

See also


  1. ^ National Park Service: Conservation versus preservation
  2. ^ Theodore Roosevelt, Address to the Deep Waterway Convention Memphis, TN, October 4, 1907
  3. ^ Jordan, Carl (1995). Replacing Quantity With Quality As a Goal for Global Management. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-59515-2.
  4. ^, "The Importance of Eco-Design"
  5. ^ Archived 3 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Tribal Conservationists

Further reading

  • Conservation and evolution (Frankel et Soulé, 1981)
  • Glacken, C.J. (1967) Traces on the Rhodian Shore. University of California Press. Berkeley
  • Grove, R.H. (1992) 'Origins of Western Environmentalism', Scientific American 267(1): 22–27.
  • Grove, R.H. (1997) Ecology, Climate and Empire: Colonialism and Global Environmental History 1400–1940 Cambridge: Whitehorse Press
  • Grove, R.H. (1995) Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens, and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600–1860 New York: Cambridge University Press
  • Leopold, A. (1966) A Sand County Almanac New York: Oxford University Press
  • Pinchot, G. (1910) The Fight for Conservation New York: Harcourt Brace.
  • "Why Care for Earth's Environment?" (in the series "The Bible's Viewpoint") is a two-page article in the December 2007 issue of the magazine Awake!.
  • Sutherland, W.; et al. (2015). What Works in Conservation. Open Book Publishers. A free textbook for download.

External links

Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm

The Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm is a historic farm on Levee Road in rural Sauk County, Wisconsin, United States. The property was acquired in the 1930s as a family summer retreat by the noted conservationist and writer Aldo Leopold and is the landscape that inspired his conservation ethic and the writing of his best-known work, A Sand County Almanac. The property is now owned and managed by the Aldo Leopold Foundation, which provides tours and other educational programs on the property and the adjacent visitors center. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2009.

American Land Conservancy

The mission of American Land Conservancy is to conserve land for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Conservation biology

Conservation biology is the management of nature and of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions. It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on natural and social sciences, and the practice of natural resource management.The conservation ethic is based on the findings of conservation biology.

Conservation economy

A conservation economy is an ideal, imagined economy in which economic wealth is harvested from a bioregion's local natural resources in a way that meets local communities' needs yet restores rather than depletes natural and social capital

"In a conservation economy, economic arrangements of all kinds are gradually redesigned so that they restore, rather than deplete, natural capital and social capital...Even in a globalizing economy, diverse bioregional economies that are more self-sufficient in meeting their own needs will be more competitive and less vulnerable..."

The primary agents expected to ultimately transform local economies and move bioregions towards locally resilient and enduring 'conservation economies' are small plus medium-sized business owners ('conservation entrepreneurs') who embrace a conservation ethic and take a rational self-interest in maintaining and restoring local ecosystems

"Individuals and organizations that see its potential and acquire the skills to build [a conservation economy] will create ongoing and enduring economic opportunities. Individuals and organizations that continue to depend on the depletion of social and natural capital will face increasingly unpredictable global commodity markets, tightening laws and regulations, new taxes, public outrage, loss of motivation, and many other symptoms of economic transformation"

Key advocates spending many years taking a lead in promoting the benefits of conservation economies and investing in local businesses to help build conservation economies have been the not-for-profit organization, Ecotrust, (founded in 1991 by economist Spencer Beebe) and its partners: Ecotrust Canada, ShoreBank Pacific, and ShoreBank Enterprise Pacific

Conservation in Iceland

Conservation in Iceland is regulated under a programme known in Icelandic as Náttúruverndarlög (conservation of nature) initiated in 1971. It offers a basis for ensuring the long-term protection of places or areas.

The Umhverfisstofnun (environmental authority) decides which areas are to be addressed.

There are six main types of conservation in Iceland:

Fólkvangar (country parks)

Friðlönd (nature reserves)

Náttúruvætti (natural monuments)

Tegundir og búsvæði (species and habitats)

Þjóðgarðar (natural parks)

Önnur svæði (other)

Conservation in Italy

This articles contains links to topics on conservation in Italy.

Conservation photography

Conservation photography is the active use of the photographic process and its products, within the parameters of photojournalism, to advocate for conservation outcomes.

Conservation photography combines nature photography with the proactive, issue-oriented approach of documentary photography as an agent for protecting nature and improving the biosphere and natural environment. Conservation Photography furthers environmental conservation, wildlife conservation, habitat conservation or cultural conservation by expanding public awareness of issues and stimulating remedial action.


An environmentalist is a supporter of the goals of the environmental movement, "a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activities". An environmentalist is engaged in or believes in the philosophy of environmentalism.

Environmentalists are sometimes referred to using informal or derogatory terms such as "greenie" and "tree-hugger".

Greenpeace USA

Greenpeace USA is the United States affiliate of Greenpeace, an international environmental nonprofit organization"

Habitat conservation

Habitat conservation is a management practice that seeks to conserve, protect and restore habitats and prevent species extinction, fragmentation or reduction in range. It is a priority of many groups that cannot be easily characterized in terms of any one ideology.

Index of conservation articles

This is an index of conservation topics. It is an alphabetical index of articles relating to conservation biology and conservation of the natural environment.

Jack Miner

John Thomas Miner, OBE (April 10, 1865 – November 3, 1944), or "Wild Goose Jack," was a Canadian conservationist called by some the "father" of North American conservationism.

Jackson Hole Preserve

Jackson Hole Preserve, Incorporated is non-profit conservation organization whose primary mission is the conservation ethic applied to natural areas.

Māori and conservation

The Māori people have a strong and changing conservation ethic from the time of their discovery and settlement of New Zealand until the present day and is closely tied to spiritual beliefs.

National Conservation Area

National Conservation Area is a designation for certain protected areas in the United States. They are nature conservation areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the National Landscape Conservation System.

Restrictions vary between these conservation areas, but generally they are not leased or sold under mining laws and motorized vehicle use is restricted, unlike many other BLM areas.

Robert E. Hopkins

Robert Earl Hopkins (June 30, 1915 – July 4, 2009) was president of the Optical Society of America in 1973.Recognized as an expert in optical instrument design, aspheric optics, interferometry, lasers, and lens testing, Hopkins has been characterized as the "father of optical engineering."

Born in Belmont, MA, in 1915, Hopkins attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under a full scholarship, earning a BS in 1937. He received his MS (1939) and PhD (1945) from the University of Rochester (UR). In 1948, he was awarded a US Navy Citation for outstanding wartime service in the Office of Research and Development.

Hopkins was appointed to the UR faculty in 1945 and was named Professor of Optics in 1951. He led the Institute of Optics as Director from 1954 to 1964, during the time when computers were first used to design optical systems and both fiber optics and the laser were born. He travelled frequently to Ithaca to use an early computer at Cornell University and brought the first computers to the UR in 1955. His lens designs included the Todd-AO lens used for the film "Oklahoma!" (1955). In 1963, he organized the "Laser Road Show" for the National Science Foundation to introduce laser technologies at colleges, universities, and corporations.

Hopkins left the UR in 1967 to serve as President of Tropel, Inc., a company he co-founded in 1953. Tropel became a world leader in customized precision optical instrumentation and is now a division of Corning, Inc. He returned to the UR Laboratory of Laser Energetics in 1975 as Chief Optical Engineer, a position he held until 1982. He also continued to teach as Professor of Optics and as Professor Emeritus throughout the 1980s.

An OSA member since 1937, Hopkins served as the Society's President in 1973. He was a recipient of OSA's Frederic Ives Medal (1970) and Joseph Fraunhofer Award (1983). He was also a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), served on the SPIE Board of Governors, and was a member of Sigma Xi, the American Society for Engineering Education and numerous advisory panels. He was awarded the SPIE Gold Medal in 1983. His career has been celebrated by his students and associates in the Robert E. Hopkins Professor of Optics endowed chair and the Robert E. Hopkins Center for Optical Design and Engineering at the UR.

Hopkins was an avid skier for most of his life, a 195 bowler, a competitive horseshoe player in his 70's, and a sometime sailor and golfer. He also loved and respected the natural world in which we live and practiced his conservation ethic on the family property known as Wayland.

He was predeceased by his wife of 60 years, Barbara Ann Barnes, and is survived by 6 children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.

Site-based conservation

Site-based conservation is an approach to nature conservation that relies on the designation of important or representative examples of sites supporting key habitats or species, such as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) or Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Whilst a rational way of ensuring that the very best resources are protected, it is open to a number of criticisms:

It tends to focus resources and protection on only the best sites.

With a changing climate, the best sites now may not be the best ones to protect for the future.

Wildlife is ignorant of lines drawn on maps by humans.On balance, site-based conservation is an essential part of nature conservation, along with initiatives such as environmental subsidies and planning controls that protect biodiversity across the whole landscape (the broad and shallow approach), and the more holistic ideas of landscape-scale conservation.

Society of American Foresters

The Society of American Foresters (SAF) is a scientific and educational 501(c) non-profit organization, representing the forestry profession in the United States of America. Its mission statement declares that it seeks to advance the science, education, and practice of forestry; to enhance the competency of its members; to establish professional excellence; and, to use the knowledge, skills and conservation ethic of the profession to ensure the continued health and use of forest ecosystems and the present and future availability of forest resources to benefit society. Its headquarters are located in Bethesda, Maryland.

Conservation biology
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