The Conservation Movement at a Crossroads: The Hetch Hetchy Controversy

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir on Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley


Students analyze primary sources to investigate the debate over damming the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, which marked a crossroads in the American conservation movement when San Francisco’s need for a reliable water supply, along with a new political dynamic at the federal level, created a division between those committed to preserving the wilderness and those more interested in efficient management of its use. After, students may conduct research to identify and develop a comparison with a contemporary controversy, such as opening protected areas to volcano monitoring or resource extraction in or delivery through these places.

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High School


Civics, Science, Social Studies


200-400 minutes


California, conservation, dams, Hetch Hetchy, nature, preservation, resource extraction, resource management, resource transport, San Francisco, volcano monitoring, water, wilderness, Yosemite


Teaching with the Library of Congress

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