Sifton served as the commission's chairman until 1918 and was always its guiding spirit. To Sifton, conservation meant that resources should be used in ways that would generate the greatest benefit for all Canadians. The public interest demanded wise management, but wise management in turn demanded the best understanding of the resource base. The commission was expected to provide this knowledge.
The members of the commission included 3 federal Cabinet ministers, the 9 provincial ministers with responsibility for natural resources, and 20 members at large, including a professor from every province with a university. The commission was further organized into working committees which directed a diverse array of research in 7 topical fields: agricultural land, water and water power, fisheries, game and fur-bearing animals, forests, minerals, and public health.
The results were published in some 200 books, reports and scientific papers that constituted the first large-scale survey of Canadian resources and resource problems. Achievements in public policy were not as great. Governments were slow to accept the commission's advice, and, as other agencies of the federal government became more active in resource management, the Commission of Conservation came to seem redundant. It was dissolved in 1921.
Author P.J. SMITH