Abstract Four control theory models of natural and environmental resource use, drawn from the existing literature, are developed in a manner to emphasize their technical and decentralized interpretive similarity. Renewable, nonrenewable, and amenity resource use are treated as closely related problems of optimal (biological, earth material, ecological, or environmental) capital allocation over time. Thus nonrenewable resources, and the problem of exhaustion, are just limiting (zero growth) cases of renewable resources, and the problem of species extinction. Just as exhaustion can be optimal, extinction can be optimal. Waste recycling is treated as part of the problem of optimal regeneration of “sclean” environmental capital; wilderness use as a problem of managing the regeneration of ecological capital.