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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.

Chronological Thinking

This collection provides an excellent illustrated timeline that can help students develop chronological thinking skills. Using the Chronology of Selected Events, students can trace the roots of modern day environmental concerns.

For example, in the 1869 book Our New West, Samuel Bowles combines interest in natural wonders with enthusiasm for exploitable natural resources. Bowles covers the hardships and benefits of mining, and the role of government land titles in mining ventures -- all issues still widely debated today. He writes:


(page 284) In 1859, Nevada was not; and its mineral wealth was unknown. In that year, the outcroppings of the great Comstock lode ... were revealed ... . Adventurers of every sort hurried over the mountains from California, regardless of weather, or means, or any other element of comfort and success. There were of course wide disappointment and terrible suffering, much social disorder, and shocking political anarchy. But the greatest silver deposit in America was revealed; the science of mining was rapidly carried to a greater perfection than was ever reached before; and Nevada soon became a State. ...

(page 300) It is well understood that there is a government title, which, if ultimately insisted on, is beneath all titles to mining property; but Congress has already sufficiently settled the principle that the claims of the discoverers and miners...shall be respected by the government. It should be added that the minersí rights are superior to all other rights of property except the government title. The survey, location and ownership of a piece of land as real estate gives no right, under the minersí laws, to the minerals which it contains.

Search on national parks, water conservation, endangered species, public lands, Hetch Hetchy, and mining for evidence of early conservation debates on appropriate use of federal lands.