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The rise of the conservation ethic in northern New England is the subject of Common Lands, Common People. It shows that the movement that eventually took hold throughout America, had its roots among the communitarian ethics of countrypeople, demonstrating the debates over use of, and access to, forests and water. Though originating in utilitarian terms, they held popular notions of properly ordered landscapes, and common rights to nature. The study reveals a complex set of motives and inspirations behind the mid-19th century drive to conserve natural resources.