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A History of Conservation


Abundance of wildlife
Era of Abundance - 1500 to 1849

Wildlife was abundant during this period of early colonization. From billions of passenger pigeons flying overhead to the herds of bison in the fields and woods, North America was teaming with wildlife.

Era of Over-exploitation - 1850 to 1899

As more and more Europeans settled in North America, the land began to change. Cities, farms, roads and railroads began to appear throughout the wilderness. Wildlife began to suffer - passenger pigeons were hunted to extinction, large predators became scarce - especially
in the east where there was a larger concentration of cities.

Bald Eagle - USFWSEra of Protection - 1900 to 1929

Americans began to notice what was happening to some of the wildlife throughout the country.

      • 1900 - Lacey Act was passed. The Lacey Act prohibited inter-state commerce; protecting animals by
                  forbidding their movement across state lines.
      • 1901 - Theodore Roosevelt was elected as president and began making strides for wildlife conservation. He tripled
                  the size of protected forests and created the U.S. Forest Service. He also created the first national wildlife
                  refuge and passed many laws that made the hunting of migratory birds (except waterfowl) illegal.
        - Migratory Bird Treaty Act


Era of Game Management - 1930 to 1965White Tail Deer - USFWS

This era brought a more scientific approach to the conservation of wildlife and fish populations
that were diminishing. This was influenced by the increasing demand for recreational hunting and fishing.

1937 - Pittman-Robinson Act was passed, which placed a tax on guns and ammunition to provide
          funds for research and management of game species.
1950 - Dingell-Johnson Act was passed, which placed a tax on fishing tackle and boats to provide 
          funding for research and management of game and fish species.
1964 - Wilderness Act was passed to allow the creation of wilderness areas on U.S. Forest
          Service land.


Era of Environmental Management - 1966 to 1979

The public began to insist on environmental protection. Soon the politicians followed.

  • Cope's Gray Treefrog - Chris Bennett1966 - Endangered Species Act was passed to provide protection for species on the brink of
  • 1969 - National Environmental Quality Act was passed. This required environmental impact
              statements for new projects.
  • 1970 - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established.
  • 1970 - Clean Air Act was passed to regulate emissions.
  • 1972 - First Earth Day
    1977 - Clean Water Act was passed to regulate the discharge of pollutants into U.S. waterways.


Era of Conservation Biology - 1980 to present

Snowy Egret - Chris BennettToday we are faced with many challenges when it comes to our wildlife. But with important conservation laws in place and with more and more public involvement, preserving and restoring our endangered wildlife species has finally become possible.

1980 - Alaska National Interest Lands Act was passed. This set aside 101 million acres of
          Alaska to be preserved as a national park, monument or wildlife refuge in the hopes of 
          maintaining one of the United States' last "wild" areas.
1980 - Forsythe-Chafee Act was passed. This called for comprehensive wildlife management
          plans, including non-game species. This was a great idea, but was never followed
          through with grant money as promised.
2000 - The Conservation Reinvestment Act (CARA) was passed to guarantee a long-term
          funding source (15 years) to support efforts in state, federal and local conservation
          programs. The goals of Title III of this act were:
                  1. prevent species from becoming endangered,
                  2. enhance outdoor recreation experiences,
                  3. foster a responsible stewardship ethic through conservation education.
         Although CARA passed a House vote in 2000 and 2001, it never made it to the Senate
2005 - Wildlife Action Plan - All states and territories throughout the U.S. were required
          to develop a Wildlife Action Plan. By doing so, they received federal grant money to "help keep
          common species common".
2007 - DE Division of Fish and Wildlife completes its first version of the Delaware Wildlife Action Plan.

Shaw, J.H. 1985. Introduction to wildlife management. McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York. 316pp.

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