Conservation movement

Various Washington locations. Washington State Archives. Washington State Conservation Department Lantern Slide Images. c. 1920s-1930s.


The American conservation movement began at the turn of the 20th century, with the focus on protecting and replenishing natural resources, such as timber, fish, water, and farmland.


Start with secondary sources 

Use secondary sources to gain basic knowledge of your topic, its significance, and historical context.

Ask a Librarian online at Washington State Library to get expert help in locating useful secondary sources. 


Then use primary sources

Use primary sources to deepen your understanding of the topic, and assemble evidence to support your own analysis and interpretation.

Ask an Archivist online at Washington State Archives to get expert help in locating useful primary sources.


Some key historical research questions:

  • Why did people come together to advocate for the conservation of natural resources?
  • What roles did Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and John Muir play in the conservation movement?
  • What role did “reclamation” play in the conservation movement?
  • Why were diking, drainage, and irrigation conservation movement issues?
  • How did the nation’s industrialization and westward expansion contribute to the conditions that concerned the conservationists?
  • What changes occurred in forestry, agriculture, and fishing as a result of the conservation movement?
  • Who was Virgil McCroskey, and why was he an important figure in the conservation movement in Washington state?
  • How were the concerns, goals, and strategies of the conservation movement similar to those of the environmental movement of the late 20th century? How were they different?
  • Consider other possibilities for historical questions as you analyze and interpret this topic.


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