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Historical Background

The Country Life Commission

Dear Visitor: This site preserves the legacy publications of the Rural West Initiative from 2009-2014. 
For more recent information on our conference and publications, please go to

Rural Conservation Echoes Across Time

By John McChesney, Director of the Rural West Initiative

We have just published a fascinating historical essay about the relationship between the Progressive Era’s Conservation Movement and the Country Life Movement. In the first decade of the twentieth century, President Theodore Roosevelt created two commissions, one on National Conservation and one on Country Life.  Roosevelt saw the two as a continuum of natural resource conservation. “…the conservation and rural life policies are really two sides of the same policy; and down at bottom this policy rests upon the fundamental law that neither man nor nation can prosper unless, in dealing with the present, he steadily take thought for the future.”

The President and the Country Life reformers felt that American agriculture was unscientific, inefficient and destructive. Author Travis Koch traces the connection between both movements and shows how the Country Life Movement, in its attempts to reform agricultural practices, ran aground on the shoals of private property. It’s worth noting that there are echoes of this struggle in contemporary times when environmental groups argue that the Farm Bill is, or should be, all about natural resource conservation.

Read the Essay »

Last modified Tue, 5 Jul, 2011 at 7:06