Conservation vs. Preservation


Conservation: The careful and sustainable management of natural resources to maintain the viability of the resource for the future and protection from exploitation.

Photo of sustainable logging practices in the Sierra National Forest. Source: By user OceanAtoll [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Preservation: The setting aside of natural resources and land from development and resource extraction. To preserve the land and or resources in the natural state.

Photo of the Weminuche Wilderness Area, Southwest CO. Source: Photo by Spencer Musselman

Description: The two main philosophies in environmental policy and management are Conservation and Preservation. These two ethos have both fundamental differences but overall believe in the sustainable protection of resources so that they remain intact for future generations to either use or enjoy. Gifford Pinchot, the first head of the U.S. Forest Service, championed the principles of conservation from the inception of it as an environmental management policy. While he quickly garnered support from prominent environmentalists and politicians such as President Theodore Roosevelt other influential environmentalists such as John Muir opposed many of the principles of conservation because they felt it did too little to protect vulnerable land and resources. The rift between prominent policy influencers during the early part of the twentieth century created a schism in environmental management strategies that still exist to this day, although a blend of the two ideas tends to be what is practiced mostly in the management of natural resources in recent decades. Typically there are strong connections between wild(ness) and conservation and wilderness and preservation.


Further Readings:

“What’s the Difference Between ‘Conservation’ and ‘Preservation’?” What’s the Difference Between “Conservation” and “Preservation”? | Piedmont Environmental Alliance,

“Washington Hunter Ed Course.” Conservation vs. Preservation | WA | Hunter™,

“Conservation versus Preservation?” USDA,