The evolving conservation views and movements in the United States are characterized by their changing social goals and the resultant alteration of attitudes towards the physical environment. Our examination results in a six-stages classification of conservation views: (1) the naturalist view, which was based on the idea of undisturbed harmony of Nature; (2) the utilitarian view, which was highly influenced by Gifford Pinchot's conservation philosophy of ‘common goods for common men’ in natural resource use; (3) the ethical view, which resulted from an awareness that increasing consumption combined with increasing population would deplete resources and depress living standards; (4) the developmental view, or a technocratic approach to resource development, which rejected a fixed inventory of natural resources and perceived an everincreasing resource base; (5) the aesthetic view, which valued the aesthetic contribution of natural resources more than the economic contribution, i.e. amenity value versus commodity value of natural resources; and (6) the ecological view, which is based on the concept of an ecosystem wherein Man is an integral and inseparable part of the total environment and is responsible for the maintenance of the total environment.
These conservation views of the United States reflect a historical conflict between progressivist and preservationist philosophies of natural resource use. The conflict derives from changing societal concepts of resource scarcity regarding their physical, economic, or qualitative, aspects. The current ‘ecological’ view remains uncertain in terms of its concept of scarcity.