Historians have long debated the fate of the conservation movement during the 1920s. While all seem to agree that a sharp divide existed between conservationists and anti-conservationists, they have differed over whether conservation entered a Dark Age during these years, whether it was sustained by private organizations and radical amateurs, or signaled an era of continuity in relations between industry and the state. The battle over the 1924 White Act, a piece of federal legislation designed to protect dwindling Alaska salmon stocks, suggests that all these conclusions deserve reevaluation. While conservation hardly disappeared during the Republican ascendancy, it did undergo important changes as federal officials emphasized production-oriented concerns for efficiency over socially oriented concerns about equity. The heated debate that erupted over the White Act bared significant differences in how Americans defined the meaning of conservation at the time. The resulting policies, as many historians have noted, often benefited large producers over smallholders while accomplishing little in solving the underlying problems of waste and depletion.

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