Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental Science

First Committee Member

Edward Weber

Second Committee Member

Robert Futrell

Third Committee Member

Jessica Word

Fourth Committee Member

Andrew Kirk

Number of Pages



This dissertation provides evidence of the emergence of a new conservation movement in the United States. The strategic, tactical and organizational approaches of traditional conservation efforts, which began in the early 1900s, have shifted during the last two decades. Specifically, the new conservation movement is characterized by three distinct changes. First, many of the well-established conservation organizations, such as the Sierra Club and National Audubon Society, have largely abandoned their traditional focus on increasing the number of acres preserved; instead more defensive and fragmented forms of conservation now reign. The second change to the conservation movement involves a dramatic expansion in the portfolio of issues that the social movement addresses; the once tight focus on land preservation has grown to include other issues never before relevant to conservation. The third change that characterizes the new conservation movement is the emergence of a new class of conservation organizations that, retain a focus on securing new acreage protections, but broaden their base for preservation beyond the U.S. to include threatened lands around the globe. As they have developed a distinctly international focus, these new organizations have also embraced alternative tactics. This dissertation establishes that four theories of change, two primary and two supplementary, explain the factors that drove the emergence of the new conservation movement. Shifts in the domestic political opportunities afforded to the movement and its adherents; and the need to adapt to external pressures such as new threats and the emergence of globalization were found to be the primary driving forces behind the three movement changes. Also underlying these changes are efforts to ensure movement and organizational survival stemming from shifts the mobilization of resources and alterations in the lifecycle of social movement organizations. No single theory of change found throughout social movement literature alone adequately explains the emergence of the new conservation movement; all four are needed to explain the transition of this large, complex and institutionalized social movement.


Advocacy; Environmental movement; Environmentalism; Nature conservation; Nonprofit organizations; Preservation; Protected areas; Social movements


Civic and Community Engagement | Environmental Health and Protection | History | Natural Resources and Conservation | Place and Environment | Sociology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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