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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > The Evolution of the Conservation Movement

[Detail] The Harvest Moon. Currier & Ives, between 1860 and 1870.

Historical Comprehension

By studying the monographs and nature writings within the collection, students can begin to comprehend the social and political movements that influenced conservation. For example, biologists, ecologists, and other scientists developed the concept of endangered species. Through the conservation movement, this concept became a question of public policy.

Fuertes painting of birds

Fuertes painting from The Harriman Alaska Expedition: Chronicles and Souvenirs May to August 1899. Page 26A.

The collection contains early warnings of human impact on animal species. Examples include The Extermination of the American Bison, 1889, and Our Vanishing Wild Life; Its Extermination and Preservation, 1913, both by William T. Hornaday. Hornaday writes:


(page 464) The primary cause of the buffalo's extermination, and the one which embraced all others, was the descent of civilization, with all its elements of destructiveness, upon the whole of the country inhabited by that animal. From the Great Slave Lake to the Rio Grande, the home of the buffalo was everywhere overrun by the man with a gun; and, as has ever been the case, the wild creatures were gradually swept away, the largest and most conspicuous forms being the first to go.



(page 114) It is high time for the whole civilized world to know that many of the most beautiful and remarkable birds of the world are now being exterminated to furnish millinery ornaments for women¥s wear. The mass of new information that we have recently secured on this traffic from the headquarters of the feather trade is appalling. Previously, I had not dreamed that conditions are half as bad as they are.

Search on wildlife, nature writing, and natural history to find readable selections about social and political aspects of the conservation movement.