An historical reconstruction of how key decisions were taken on Nature-conservation issues provides a context for appraising contemporary initiatives, both on a national and an international basis. This paper has been focused on one of the most important landmarks in the development of Nature conservation in Britain, namely the establishment of the Nature Conservancy in 1949. It recounts how the advocacy of pressure-groups, and the appointment of ad hoc inquiries, ensured that Nature conservation had a place in the Government's post-war reconstruction programme, and how it came to be regarded primarily as a scientific rather than a planning issue.
There was nothing inevitable about the steps that were taken in the 1940s. They owed much to the way in which key personalities perceived shifts in public opinion towards the role of central government, and exploited the opportunities thrown up by the national parks movement. Despite the projection of the Nature Conservancy as a body that was modest in status and resources, its potential proved to be enormous. It had the responsibility not only for acquiring and managing Nature reserves, and for disseminating advice on wildlife conservation generally, but also for carrying out the research which was and always will be relevant to those functions. It is, however, doubtful whether the personnel who were responsible for the main initiatives in the 1940s fully appreciated the implications of what they were striving to achieve.