Commercial Uses of Natural Resources


Are Working Landscapes Desirable?

Natural Resources

Economic Development

Government Presence

Neighbor vs. Neighbor

Public vs. Private

Urban Sprawl


Natural resources are raw materials we use to make other products. These include trees, minerals, aquatic life, gravel, coal, and many others. How can businesses remove these resources from an area and still maintain a working landscape? Responsible businesses know that they can make money producing products or gathering natural resources while they minimize the damage to their surroundings. Take a look at some products and possible damage from forestry, mining, and aquaculture.

The forest industry is made up of businesses involved in the growing and harvesting of trees and other plant life from forests.
Products Damages
wood products They provide lumber or timber for building houses, boats, decks, and furniture. clearcutting Removing a large block of trees exposes ground, which is vulnerable to soil erosion.
paper They create pulp to make paper and paper products. log jams Over cutting may result in logs piling up and blocking the natural flow of water.
Christmas trees They grow, cut, and sell Christmas trees. lost recreational value Forest landscapes are degraded. Who wants to visit a forest with no trees, or a river clogged with trees?
landscaping They fulfill our landscaping needs with trees and plants. lost renewable resource New trees may not be planted. Forests are not renewable resources unless trees are planted to replace the trees cut down. This also displaces wildlife.

Mining is the process or business of removing ore, soil, rock, and minerals from the ground or from mountains.
Products Damages
Coins Historically and currently used as money.

Reclamation means restoring land that has been altered. Mining pits must be reclaimed after mining operations cease. Poor mining practices can destroy the environment and cost taxpayers a lot of money in clean-up.

Habitat destruction
Animal habitats are destroyed and biodiversity is compromised.

Mining by-products, called tailings, can pollute our air and water.

Gold/Silver Standards Influence the value of currency.
Fossil Fuels Provide fuel by burning.
Nutrition Minerals are often used in vitamins.
Building Materials Provide materials used in construction like aluminum and concrete.
Jewelry Gold, silver, diamonds and other precious stones provide material for jewelry.
Gravel Gravel is used to build roads and is mixed into cement to form concrete.

Aquaculture is the business of raising marine or freshwater fish or shellfish under controlled conditions.
Products Damages



Areas of waterways that are lined off by nets; these result in large quantities of waste (just like other forms of intensive animal production).

Aquaculture Waste

Processing wastes are often released directly into natural bodies of water.

Many fish are carnivorous—they eat meat. The food provided in fish farms may not contain meat protein. The fish who eat this food do not possess the same amount of protein as their natural counterparts. This can result in a less healthy fish.

Fishing operations (shrimp farms in particular) have damaged mangroves—trees and shrubs forming buffering boundaries between land and saltwater environments. (This is an important ecosystem along coastlines.)











Making Commercial Uses a Part of a Working Landscape
Trees can be replanted every time trees are removed. Paper and aluminum can be recycled. Recycled materials can be used in place of lumber for building materials.

Mining businesses can devote some of their profits to the reclamation of landscapes they damage.


A wide variety of technologies and practices are available to make aquaculture facilities more environmentally friendly, and many of these are now used on commercial fish farms.

Sustainable use of natural resources such as forest harvesting, mining, and aquaculture considers the economic, ecological, and social elements that are part of a working landscape.


Explore More: Working Landscapes
Copyright 2004, Iowa Public Television
The Explore More project is supported by funds from the
Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust
and the USDE Star Schools Program.

Mining the Missing Loess Hill
Mining, for fill dirt and limestone, is a controversial topic in the Loess Hills. Most residents believe the heart of the Hills is the front face—the west side. It's the most visible and the most fragile. More

Paper: A Natural Resource
Paper is perhaps the most familiar product developed from natural resources. More

PBS NewsHour Online Links

In the southeast United States, states like Tennessee are taking issue with logging. Some loggers have switched from selective logging—cutting down the largest and most valuable trees—to clear cutting entire areas. Hear what outdoor enthusiasts, property owners, loggers, and local politicians have to say about it.

Vermiculite, a rock used in insulation and potting soil, was mined in Libby, Montana. Unfortunately, so was asbestos—a mineral that causes lung damage. Learn how the residents of Libby are dealing with the fallout.

Web Links
Agroforestry Opportunities
The University of Minnesota provides some ways to use forestry on the farm.

The Office of Surface Mining
This is a slideshow of former mines that have been reclaimed.

Iowa DNR Energy and Geological Resources Division
Visit the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Energy and Geological Resources Division for information on Iowa's geology and natural resources. Be sure to check out their Browse Area featuring links to information, photographs, and maps related to Loess Hills geology, national status, erosion and more!