The Inland Waterways Commission and the Multiple-Use Approach of Resource Management

The Inland Waterways Commission and the Multiple-Use Approach of Resource Management

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Abstract

During the last decades of the 19th century, U.S. businesses began exploiting the nation’s natural resources at a level never seen before. There was, though, little regulation or planning by the government of how the country’s resources were utilized. This was especially a problem for the nation’s waterways, which were fundamentally intertwined with other resources like timber and minerals. With this understanding in mind, conservationists and regulators contributed to the development of an idea known as the “multiple use” approach to natural resource management—namely that one must consider all uses for a resource before it is developed. Central in the development of this idea was the Inland Waterways Commission, an advisory body that reported to the president. The establishment of the commission and its promotion of the multi-use approach signaled a new period when businesses were increasingly challenged to consider externalities and the wider implications of their operations.

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