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Managing Federal Public Lands: Wise-Use vs. Environmental Movements

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  • 0:07 America's Land
  • 0:52 Federal Public Lands
  • 2:08 Environmental Movement
  • 3:47 Wise Use Movement
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Federal public lands are owned and administrated by the nation's government. Learn about the Environmental and Wise Use Movements and how their views differ on the management of federal public lands.

America's Land

America is a land of vast resources. It is a nation blessed by rich mineral deposits, sprawling forests, fertile farmlands, and multiple lakes and rivers. Its land area contains diverse ecosystems, from the deserts of the southwest to the tundra of Alaska to the everglades of Florida. However, from the times of the earliest American settlements, men have been locked in a debate over how to use and manage the rich public lands of this nation. This debate continues today, and in this lesson we will look at the viewpoints of the Environmental Movement and the Wise Use Movement and how their views differ when it comes to the management of federal public lands.

Federal Public Lands

Federal Public Lands are lands that are owned or administered by the federal government. The administration of these lands is handled by different government agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Even though these lands are owned by the federal government, they are public lands. Therefore, the resources they contain and the recreational opportunities they provide are meant for the well-being and economic benefit of society. For example, some federal public lands permit the extraction of natural resources, such as oil, coal, natural gas, minerals, and timbers. Additional public lands serve as potentially strong sites for renewable energy generation, such as solar and wind power.

Federal public lands may also be set aside to serve the public as national parks or to protect wildlife as wildlife refuges. Public lands are economic and environmental treasures, but there are opposing viewpoints on how the lands should be managed to meet the best interests of the people. These differing viewpoints became the start of the Environmental and Wise Use Movements.

Environmental Movement

The Environmental Movement is the term used to describe a social and political movement concerned with the protection of the environment from destruction and pollution. Those who support the Environmental Movement are strong advocates for the natural environment and see human beings as participants in the environment who must be good stewards of its natural resources. They see that nature has vast natural resources, but these resources are finite and there is a delicate balance between the use of natural resources and environmental protection that must be observed by man. If not, the result could be the loss of forests, freshwater, and fertile soil, and eventually the downfall of society.

Proponents of the Environmental Movement are a diverse group of private citizens, religious supporters, environmental scientists, and nonprofit organizations. Two of the early pioneers of the Environmental Movement were John Muir, who was the founder of the Sierra Club, which is a large conservation organization, and Gifford Pinchot, who was the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

The Environmental Movement grew after World War II. This was a time of industrial and economic growth in the United States and a time when environmentally-conscious individuals grew concerned that the environment was being neglected as the nation progressed. Proponents see advancements in industry and technology as potentially damaging to the environment. They favor the close regulation and restraint of technology to preserve nature. They strive to keep environmental protection a priority and favor increased public policy.

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