The U.S. is a global leader in environmental stewardship. Our nation has curbed emissions; innovated energy technology; conserved, recovered, and delisted threatened and endangered species; and taken steps to adhere to clean water and air standards.

Guided by a true conservationist ethos, which calls for wise use of natural resources, our nation has advanced policies that equally bolster nature and people. As a result, the world looks to us for guidance on balancing economic development with environmental protection. In the course of over 40 years, true conservation efforts—including free-market environmentalism—have become more doctrinaire and accepted by the wider public. However, preservationist environmentalism, which calls for “no use” of natural resources and greater government involvement, threatens the progress we’ve achieved on this front.

Unfortunately, the federal government, including the Biden White House, is pursuing preservationist environmental policies that make us wholly dependent on foreign nations with poor environmental and human rights track records for energy and rare earth minerals. Even more troubling, preservationists are distorting conservation and increasingly relying on public policy to implement top-down solutions to today’s pressing environmental problems. This could have dire consequences for human flourishing.

For lasting environmental progress to be achieved, the federal government should encourage partnerships with nongovernment actors to take an active role in conserving our natural resources and lands. Businesses and private individuals are already leading the charge to conserve wild spaces, critical habitat, and species on a voluntary basis and a top-down government approach will complicate problems further. Through adherence to true conservation, however, America can push back preservationist policies and lead on environmental stewardship again.