Rangeland Ecology & Management

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Goals of Public Land Managers

Conservation & Preservation

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The BLM and USFS have a dual mission to use and conserve resources, while the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Parks Service have missions to preserve natural resources.

Photo by: Sheila Merrigan


The difference between conservation and preservation missions of the federal land management agencies stretches back to their establishment in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the US Forest Service (USFS) advocated for conservation, meaning that he believed public lands could be used for recreation as well as for livestock grazing, timber harvesting, mining, hunting, and research if done responsibly. John Muir, an author and environmentalist, had a different view. He advocated for preservation of public lands, the idea that public lands should remain in their original condition and be protected from intrusive uses such as grazing, logging, and mining.  Ultimately this split resulted in the creation of the National Park Service (NPS) and, later, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to manage wildlife refuges and protect endangered species. 

The fundamental difference between the conservation missions of the USFS and BLM and the preservation missions of the NPS and FWS results in different approaches to management and different types of land uses. While USFS and BLM lands are managed for many users, including recreation and resource extraction, most of these uses are restricted on NPS and FWS managed lands. Grazing is generally restricted in national parks and wildlife refuges and recreation is more tightly controlled to prevent alteration of natural landscapes, archeological sites, and possible harm to wildlife. 


  • What's the difference between preserve, reserve, and conserve when it comes to protecting land and natural resources? Sheryl explores the definitions of these words, their historical context, and how they're used today. We also take a look at how much land is protected world-wide, and how those protected lands are used.

  • NWLLC Plenary 2: October 23, 2014 Keynote Address Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel, United States Department of the Interior