Making ‘Conservation’ Work for the 21st Century – Enabling Resilient Place

4 WASH. J. ENVTL. L. & POL’Y 359-423 (2015)

67 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2014 Last revised: 31 Oct 2017

See all articles by Jerrold A. Long

Jerrold A. Long

University of Idaho College of Law

Date Written: March 14, 2014


During the New Deal, as part of a larger effort implementing Progressive-era “conservation” regimes, the federal government authorized the structurally-invasive Flood Control Act of 1936. At the same time, the Standard State Soil Conservation Districts Law promoted the creation of local, place-based efforts to protect or restore locally-valued resources. “Conservation” thus came to signify both the invasive, structural, engineering approach of mid-20th Century flood control, and the local, more responsive and flexible nature of soil conservation districts. But our understandings of our place in the natural world have changed subtly but significantly over the past century. Any legitimate natural resource regime must achieve its resource management goals while balancing its demands with local cultural expectations, which now generally include some desire to protect the natural environment. This article argues – using a case study focused on a small flood control district – that local conservation districts can be used to implement 21st-Century understandings of “conservation” that more accurately reflect local culture and needs. These locally-driven and place-based conservation efforts can improve and protect the aesthetic, health, ecological, and economic resources of a particular landscape, even as they manage that landscape – in part – to satisfy human needs. A system succeeding on all goals would be truly socio-ecologically resilient, promoting resilient ecosystems, a resilient local culture and economy, and a resilient local legal system – together creating a resilient place.

Keywords: natural resources conservation, land use planning, flood control

Suggested Citation

Long, Jerrold A., Making ‘Conservation’ Work for the 21st Century – Enabling Resilient Place (March 14, 2014). 4 WASH. J. ENVTL. L. & POL’Y 359-423 (2015), Available at SSRN: or

Jerrold A. Long (Contact Author)

University of Idaho College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 442321
Moscow, ID 83844-2321
United States

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