U.S. conservation began early, requires balance, UM speaker says


Many think America's conservation ethic started with Teddy Roosevelt, but that dismisses another 300 years of protecting public space.

Jim Levitt, Harvard University's conservation innovation program director, said the Puritans fostered the tradition in 1634 when they decided to tax themselves for the creation of Boston Common. Those same ideals underpin contemporary efforts like Montana's Blackfoot Challenge, where landowners, industry leaders and government officials have banded together to protect the land they all depend on.

"Throughout American history, this has been a bipartisan movement," Levitt told a large audience in the University of Montana's School of Law. "Republicans took the lead, and Democrats have picked it up."

Levitt was one of a series of speakers at UM's Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy. Center senior fellow Sarah Bates said many separate disciplines focus on public land without realizing how their actions connect.