natural resources. This history has three overlapping story lines, as more fully explained below. The first occurred in the United States as a conservation movement, which developed from the recognition that our taming of the wilderness was destroying much of what we valued as part of the U.S. culture—a recognition that led to conservation laws which began to emerge in the late nineteenth century. The second was based on the realization that some of the chemical and physical agents increasingly released into the environment because of industrial development were harmful to people and the environment—a realization that led to such events as the original Earth Day and the formation of EPA in 1970 and the ensuing media and pollutant-based environmental laws.

The third story line is based upon the perception that population growth and consumption are challenging the ability of Earth’s ecosystems to provide for future generations and that the response to this challenge requires more than “place-based” (see Appendix C) conservation or the control of environmental pollutants. The institutionalization of this began with a series of international conferences and agreements that were—to a very large degree—based on and inspired by actions that were already under way in the United States. Although formal international endorsement of sustainable development occurred at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED or Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, many of its underlying concepts and principles had long been recognized in U.S. law and policy. Since the Earth Summit, the most successful U.S. efforts have been in response to stakeholder or constituent demand. However, in contrast to the United States, the third story line also contains the explicit and strategic use of the concept of sustainable development in other developed countries.


The conservation and preservation movements in the United States—and the laws that were enacted in response to these—represented an effort to reconcile economic development with the protection of the environment by ensuring the availability of natural resources for the benefit of both present and future generations (Van Hise 1927, Fox 1981). It was also a response to the destruction of native virgin forests by logging and conversion to agriculture, as well as to the extinction of species such as the passenger pigeon and the near extinction of the American bison (more popularly known as the buffalo). As the movement evolved over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, its objectives included protection of forests, water, soils, public lands, and wildlife (Beatty 1952, Hays 1959, Reiger 1975, Norse 2005). Early fish biologists and ecologists also played an important role in advancing the concepts and methods related to sustainable fish consumption and harvesting and sustainable ecosystems. There was also an understanding among American’s leading conservationists that human well-being relied on all natural resources. Gifford Pinchot, the first chief

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