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Conservation is the management, protection, and wise use of natural resources. Natural resources include all the things that help support life, such as sunlight, water, soil, and minerals. Plants and animals are also natural resources. The earth has limited supplies of many natural resources. Our use of these resources keeps increasing as the population grows and our standard of living rises. Conservationists work to ensure that the environment can continue to provide for human needs. Without conservation, most of the earth's resources would be wasted, degraded, or destroyed. Conservation includes a wide variety of activities. Conservationists work to keep farmlands productive. conservation They manage forests to supply timber, to shelter wildlife, and to provide people with recreational opportunities. They work to save wilderness areas and wildlife from human destruction. They try to find ways to develop and use mineral resources without damaging the environment. Conservationists also seek safe, dependable ways to help meet the world's energy needs. In addition, they work to improve city life by seeking solutions to air pollution, waste disposal, and urban decay. Conservationists sometimes divide natural resources into four groups: (1) inexhaustible resources, (2) renewable resources, (3) nonrenewable resources, and (4) recyclable resources. Inexhaustible resources, such as sunlight, cannot be used up. Conservation experts consider water an inexhaustible resource because the earth will always have the same amount of water. But water supplies vary from one area to another, and some areas have shortages of clean, fresh water. The supplies of salt and some other minerals are so abundant that they are not likely to be used up. Renewable resources can be used and replaced. They include plants and animals, which reproduce and so replace themselves. Most renewable resources cannot be stored for future use. For example, old trees rot and become useless for timber if they are not cut down, though rotting trees can serve such important purposes as providing habitat for wildlife. In addition, because most renewable resources are living things, they interact with one another. Thus, the use of one such resource affects others. For example, cutting down trees affects many plants and animals, as well as soil and water resources. Soil may be considered a renewable resource because crops can be grown on the same land for years if the soil is cared for properly. But if the soil is allowed to wash or blow away, it can only be replaced over hundreds of years. Nonrenewable resources, such as coal, iron, and petroleum, cannot be replaced. They take thousands or millions of years to form. People deplete supplies of these resources faster than new supplies can form. We can store most nonrenewable resources for future use. Mining companies sometimes leave minerals in the ground to save them for the future. Little interaction occurs among most nonrenewable resources, so using one nonrenewable resource has little effect on another. Recyclable resources, such as aluminum and copper, can be used more than once. For example, aluminum can be used to make containers and then be reprocessed and reused. People have practiced some kinds of conservation for hundreds of years. As a popular movement, however, conservation began in the United States during the early 1900's. The word conservation was probably first used by Gifford Pinchot, head of the U.S. Forest Service during President Theodore Roosevelt's administration. The term comes from two Latin words-servare, which means to keep or to guard, and con, which means together. During the early 1900's, American conservationists worked chiefly to preserve the nation's forests and wildlife. Today, conservationists work in many fields, including forestry, geology, range ecology, soil science, wildlife biology, and urban planning. Conservationists are also called environmentalists. One of the most difficult challenges of conservation is to reconcile two, sometimes conflicting, goals-(1) to protect the environment and (2) to maintain or increase agricultural and industrial production. For example, the agricultural use of some chemical fertilizers and pesticides pollutes the environment but also greatly increases crop yields. Thus, most farmers do not want to stop using these chemicals, even though it would be best for the environment. Only the combined efforts of many people can solve such problems. Business leaders, government officials, scientists, and individuals must all work together to conserve natural resources.

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