Unless otherwise noted, information contained in each edition of the Kansas School Naturalist reflects the knowledge of the subject as of the original date of publication.

KSN - Vol 11, No 3 - What is Conservation?Volume 11, Number 3 - February 1965

What is Conservation?



Published by
The Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia

Prepared and Issued by
The Department of Biology, with the cooperation of the Division of Education

Acting Editor: Carl W. Prophet Department of Biology

Editorial Committee: Ina M. Borman, Robert F. Clarke, Helen
M. Douglass, Gilbert A. Leisman, David F. Parmelee

Online format by: Terri Weast

The Kansas School Naturalist is sent upon request, free of charge, to Kansas teachers, school board members and administrators, librarians, conservationists, youth leaders, and other adults interested in nature education. Back numbers are sent free as long as the supply lasts, except Vol. 5, No.3, Poisonous Snakes of Kansas. Copies of this issue may be obtained for 25 cents each postpaid. Send orders to The Kansas School Naturalist, Department of Biology, Kansas State Teachers College, Emporia, Kansas.

The Kansas School Naturalist is published in October, December, February, and April of each year by The Kansas State Teachers College, 1200 Commercial Street, Emporia, Kansas. Second-class postage paid at Emporia, Kansas.

What is Conservation?

Midtown, Kansas
Summer 1964

Dear Conservation Workshop Members,

On a recent field trip our fourth grade science class noticed gullies in some fields, muddy streams, and litter along the roadside. We are concerned about the waste and careless use of our water, soil, plants, and wildlife.

These observations have aroused our interest in conservation. Could you supply us with any information on conservation of natural resources which would be usable in our class?

Mary Jones
(Fourth Grade Teacher)

Emporia, Kansas

Dear Miss Jones,

Thank you for your letter. We hope this informal answer will be of help to you and that your class will be able to read it themselves.

Our natural resources are priceless possessions. All must be conserved if we expect to receive benefits form them now and in the future. Conservation means the wise and proper use of our natural resources. We will consider soil, water, grasslands, forests, and wildlife resources in this letter. There are others that you may wish to read bout later, as minerals, air and human resources. The first resource we will consider is the...


How important is the soil? Without soil you would not have food to eat, clothes to wear, wood to build a house, or grass and flowers to enjoy.

All life depends on fertile soil diagram

The chart shows you that: 1. Plants need soil; 2. Animals need plants; 3. Plants need water; and 4. We need all of them. It is important for every one of us to learn all we can about soil and how to take care of it.

Erosion sketchThe pioneers cut trees and plowed grasslands to plant food crops. The rich prairie soil provided crop after crop with plentiful minerals. As the crops were harvested the minerals were taken from the soil. Slowly the soil’s fertility declined. Plowing furrows up and downt eh slopes made channels down which water ran. The run-off water cut deep gullies and crried the rich topsoil into streams and eventually into the ocean. In areas of high rainfall, exposed soil was slowly leached of its valuable minerals and organic matter, too. After the soil was no longer productive, the pioneers moved further westward and found new lands to plow.
Today the farmer may secure the help of trained technicians from the Soil Conservation Service. The soil conservationists recommend proper soil management plans for the farm. By following these plans the farmer can use the different kinds of land on his farm to the best advantage. Here is what he can do:

  1. FERTILIZE--to replace lost soil nutrients by adding chemicals, plant material, or manure to the soil.

  2. PLANT VEGETATIVE COVER--to prevent erosion and to keep the soil porous by maintaining plant growth on the land.

  3. ROTATE CROPS--to preserve soil fertility by planting a succession of different crops.

  4. FARM ON THE CONTOUR--to prevent erosion of soil from slopes by plowing and cultivating around the hill.

  5. BUILD TERRACES--to move excess water from the fields slowly by constructing ridges around hills or across slopes.

  6. CONSTRUCT GRASS WATERWAYS--to provide channels for run-off water by building broad ditches and planting grass in them.

  7. BUILD PONDS ANDRESERVOIRS--to collect and store runoff water and to hold it on the land for flood prevention and future use.

Farm pond sketch


Water is man’s friend, but it can also be one of his worst enemies. Clean water under control is valuable in homes, factories, and farms. Polluted or flood waters cause economic losses and are a hazard to the health of man and wildlife.

water dropsThere are two things we must do to conserve water:
1)    Control water run-off.
2)    Stop polluting our streams and reservoirs.

Let us show you what happens when we do not hold the raindrops where they fall. The falling raindrops act as little bombs striking the exposed soil and breaking it into tiny particles. The particles remain suspended withint the water as it flows down hill. When this muddy water collects so fast that streams and rivers cannot hold it, a flood spreads over the land. Animal drown. Houses and cars are swept away. Crops are destroyed by the silt and water. This water is wasted.

The land area that slopes and drains into a stream is called a watershed. Reservoirs are built in the watersheds to collect run-off water for uses by man and to prevent floods in the land below. Roots, stems, and leaves of growing plants catch and hold some of the water. This moisture sinks into the ground where part of it is used by plants, and some sinks deeper into the soil where it is stored in underground reservoirs. This underground water supplies wells and provides some water for creeks and rivers. This source of water often keeps water flowing in creeks and rivers during periods of drought. Farmers are using ponds and reservoirs to conserve water. Cities often depend on reservoirs for water supplies. Contour farming, terracing, planting cover crops, and building dams decrease the amount of silt in stream water by reducing surface run-off.

Diagram of a small watershedExcessive amounts of silt, sewage, and chemicals in water kill desirable species of aquatic plants and animals which need sunlight and oxygen to live and reproduce. Purification of polluted water is expensive. Cities and industries can help keep streams and reservoirs pure by using modern waste treatment processes. We can help prevent water pollution by burning or burying our trash and garbage instead of dumping it into streams.

People have not always had to think of conserving water. When the pioneers settled our land, the clean streams and wells provided a constant supply of clear water. Industrial uses, agricultural uses and the needs of an increasing population have reduced our water supplies in some areas and polluted it in others. These needs are increasing rapidly.

factory runoff sketch

The United States Government is building dams on rivers which hold back flood waters. The lakes formed by these dams supply water for irrigation and power for electricity. People are using these lakes for swimming, boating, skiing, and fishing. Lakes provide resting and feeding places for water birds during migration. The land around the lakes provides a place for camping, picnicking, and nature study as well as a habitat for wildlife.

mountain lake sketch



Grass is an important resource of our country. The grasses and wildflowers of the prairies are hardy native plants which can withstand adverse conditions such as drought, extreme temperature changes, fire, and grazing.

Let us see how grasses hold our valuable soil and keep water where it will be most useful. Thousands of little roots tie down the soil and act as a sponge to hold water. This thick green carpet prevents wind erosion too. After each growing season, the grass, leaves, and stems decompose into organic humus and leave the soil richer. Part of the grasses and other plants are converted by livestock into meat and milk for our use.

Early in the settlement of the prairies the grasslands were abused. Many acres of marginal land were plowed which should have remained as grassland. Large numbers of livestock grazed parts of the prairie to the bare earth. Today we know that over-grazing destroys the valuable forage plants and allows low-quality weedy plants to invade. The reduced grass cover exposes the soil to wind and water erosion. Range conservationists tell us that one-half of the annual volume of forage produced can be used by livestock without detrimentally affecting the plants and the quality of the rangeland.

take half - leave halfRemember, a good rule is Take Half – Leave Half.

Range managers recommend that ranchers and farmers –

  1. Plant grass on land that has been overused or disturbed.
  2. Plant grass waterways in drainage areas to stop erosion.
  3. Keep numbers of livestock in balance with the amount of available grass on the range.
  4. Preserve areas with natural plant cover for recreation and as a suitable home for animals.


The vast forests seemed inexhaustible to the early settlers. Millions of acres of trees were cut to supply markets at home and in foreign countries. The early loggers cared little for the future of forests they cut. There were always more trees a few miles away. The eastern and northern forests were cut first, then the pine forests of the South, and finally the lumbering industry moved westward. By the early years of the twentieth cnetruy much of the high quality lumber had been cut. It was obvious that something ahd to be done if our forests were to continue to supply us with wood for our expanding needs.

Through government action areas were set aside as national forests where trained biologists managed the forests scientifically. Methods of logging were developed that reduced waste of the forest trees during cutting and sawing operations. Private forest industries also began studies to determing ways of controlling diseases, destroying insect pests, and preventing costly forest fires. Many cut-over and burned forests were replanted with young trees.

Our forests are managed on a sustained yield basis. New trees are planted to replace those harvested. This kind of management will insure that we will have forests to supply our needs for years to come. Today forests have many uses. The forests not only give us trees for wood but also provide lands for fishing, hunting, camping, nature study, and stable drainage areas.


There is not area of conservation with a longer history in America than wildlife conservation. During the period of the westward movement one could see millions of buffalo roaming the vast lands from Canada to Mexico. But to the pioneers conservation meant little. The market for meat and hides, the rifle, and the railroad were instrumental in reducing wildlife as species after species of wild animals and birds decreased in number or disappeared.

At the beginning of the twentieth century wildlife in North America was disappearing rapidly. A few farsighted men recognized the importance of wildlife as a natural resource. These men worked to encourage the federal and state governments to enact laws and initiate programs to conserve wild animals. Conservation projects included the establishments of refuges and sanctuaries, and the construction of game farms and fish hatcheries. Game laws were passed to regulate fishing and hunting seasons and set bag and creel limits.

Factors that hold down wildlife population.

Factors that hold down wildlife population

Wild game populations normally produce more individuals during the spring and summer than the habitat can support through the winter. Predators, starvation, and diseases may take part of this surplus but some of it may be harvested by man. This harvest is regulated by game laws.

Man-made laws alone cannot insure surpluses in animal populations if the amount and distribution of food, cover, and water are inadequate. Actually, the destruction of habitat is largely responsible for the decrease in wildlife numbers. When food is scarce fewer young are produced and these are often weak. Inadequate cover causes more losses to predators, death from exposure, and fewer good nest sites.

Much wildlife is dependent on the farmer for food and cover. Wildlife may be aided by leaving natural vegetation and by planting small shrubs and grains along fence rows, in corners, and in waste areas of fields. These will provide food and protection for wildlife during cold winters.

Now that we have discussed these five specific areas of conservation, let us again stress that the rapidly increasing human population is putting increased demands on our limited natural resources. Several large cities are having difficulty obtaining enough pure water for homes and industries. Soil erosion is still claiming some of our precious croplands. Forests and rangelands still suffer some abuses. Recreational lands are receiving greater use by crowded city dwellers. There are fewer game animals in each hunter’s bag.

Today conservations are working to eliminate waste of our natural resources. Research workers are finding new and more efficient ways to use our soil, forests, rangelands, waters, and wildlife. Long range management plans are being put into effect. However, these plans will not succeed unless each of us does his part to prevent waste of soil, water, forests, and wildlife. We must become informed and act wisely in all decisions concerning natural resource use.

Conservation programs directed by trained personnel with modern knowledge and techniques which are supported by the American people can achieve the goal of natural resource conservation: to obtain from our resources the greatest amount of good, for the greatest number of people, for the greatest period of time.

Conservation Pledge


We are including a list of things that you can do to learn more about our natural resources and to understand the need for conserving them.


  1. Learn the conservation pledge.
  2. Help prevent forest and grass fires.
  3. Learn to care for pets and injured animals.
  4. Plant a shrub or tree in your yard and care for it.
  5. Construct a bulletin board or display on conservation.
  6. Enter the soi1. Conservation poster contest sponsored by the soil conservation district in your county.
  7. Help others learn about conservation. Can you add other suggestions to this list?

Conservation Workshop MembersWe hope this information will be of help to you.

Conservation Workshop Members

This issue of The Kansas School Naturalist was prepared by five teachers, members of the 1964 Conservation Workshop, and two members of the faculty of the Department of Biology of Kansas State Teachers College, Thomas Eddy and Dr . Brrnadette Menhusen. The workshop members were (from left to right) Clara Belle Endsley, Junction City; Joann Holaday, Hoyt; Eva Dold, Emporia; Mable Doane, Hutchinson; and Dorothy Gibbons, Hutchinson. Most of the illustrations were drawn by Dr. Robert Boles, Assistant Professor of Bioloty, KSTC. The copy was typed by Donna Naden, student assistant, KSTC.


Allen, Durward. 1962. Our Wildlife Legacy. Revised Edition. Funk & Wagnalls, New York. 422 p.

Ashbaugh, Bryon L., and Muriel Beuschlein. 1960. Things to Do in Science and Conservation. Interstate Printers and Publishers, Danville, Illinois 163 p.

Bathurst, Effie G., and Wilhelmina Hill . 1957. Conservation Experiences for Children. Bul. 1957, No. 16. U.S. Office of Education, Washington, D.C. 192 p.

Conservation Foundation. 1963. Concepts of Conservation. Conservation Foundation, 30 East 40th Stree, New York 16, New York. 66 p.

Dasmann, Raymond F. 1959. Environmental Conservation. John Wiley & Sons, New York. 307 p.

Hamm, Russell L., and Larry Nason. 1964. An Ecological Approach to Conservation. Burgess Publishing Co., Minneapolis. 3'66 p.

Highsmith, Richard M., Jr., J. Granville Jensen, and Robert D. Rudd . 1962. Conservation in the United States. Rand McNally &Co., Chicago . 322 p.

Munzer, Martha, and Paul F. Brandwein. 1960. Teaching Science Through Conservation. McGraw-Hill , New York. 470 p.

Weaver, Richard L.. (ed.) 1958. Handbook for Teaching of Conservation and Resource-Use . Interstate Printers and Publishers, Danville, Illinois. 502 p.

THE 1965 WORKSHOP IN CONSERVATION will again be conducted in two sections, from June 2 to June 18, and from June 21 to July 9, inclusive. As in the past several years, the Workshop will cover water, soil, grassland, wildlife conservation and conservation teaching.

There will be lectures, demonstrations, discussion groups, films, slides, field trips, projects, and individual and group reports. You may enroll for undergraduate or graduate credit.

The first section is open to any interested • person; there are no prerequisites. Since the second section is devoted almost entirely to the production of teaching aids (e.g. preparation of copy for an issue of The Kansas School Naturalist), enrollment is limited to those who already have an established interest in conservation education and who have some teaching experience.

The sketch appearing at the bottom of page 3 was taken from Glimpses of Kansas Wildlife, a publication of the Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game Commission. The drawings appearing on pages 4 and 5 were reprinted through the courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation. The graph on page 12 was adapted from a graph appearing in Farmer's Bulletin No. 2035, U. S. Department of Agriculture.

For other information write the director, Thomas A. Eddy, Department of Biology, KSTC, Emporia, Kansas.

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