Today the term preservation usually refers to the protection of historical resources and landmarks, but in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries “preservationists” were those who promoted the permanent protection of natural resources and lands. Preservationists like John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club and influenced Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation efforts, worked to protect areas of natural land from human disturbance or development.
Conservationists are concerned with the managed use of natural resources. Where nature “preservationists” aim to permanently set aside lands to be kept safe from human disturbance and development, conservationists aim to carefully manage the use of lands and natural resources while protecting against their overuse. Conservationists try to ensure that natural resources yield the greatest benefit to current generations while maintaining their potential for the use of future generations.
John Muir (1838–1914) was a wilderness preservationist whose influence helped lead to the establishment of national parks. Muir was also a founder of the Sierra Club, which was formed in 1892 to preserve the Sierra Nevada wilderness.