National Geographic Online
About Conservation

Conservation Triangle


Sustainable use, preservation, and restoration are ways we can conserve the natural and cultural environment. A conservation project can use one, two, or all three of these methods.

sustainable use: using resources in ways that do not deplete them


  • reducing use of renewable resources (water, forests, fisheries)

  • reducing use of nonrenewable resources (fossil fuels, minerals)

  • recycling or reusing resources (paper, plastic, glass, aluminum)

  • revising farming methods (sustainable agriculture)

Preservation: protecting resources, ecosystems, and structures for present and future generations


  • preserving the quality of natural resources (air, water, soil)

  • setting aside land (national parks, city parks)

  • protecting endangered animals and plants and their habitats


Restoration: returning resources, ecosystems, and structures to their original (or near-original) condition


  • cleaning a polluted river

  • restoring an area that’s been developed by humans to its natural habitat

  • restoring a historic building or cultural landmark

  • helping endangered species, such as the bald eagle and the California condor, make a comeback

Why should we practice conservation?

  • for the health of the planet

  • for human health and quality of life

  • to preserve places for outdoor recreation

  • to preserve Earth’s natural beauty

  • to preserve ecosystems whose riches may hold a cure for cancer or other diseases

  • to sustain the use of resources we rely on for energy and to develop alternative energy resources

  • to reap the economic benefits derived from reusing resources

We are all stewards of the planet. We should try to make choices that will enhance the quality of life for individuals and families now and in the future.

© 2000 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.

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