Aldo Leopold and the Ecological Conscience

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Knopf sends follow—up letter, with reviewers' comments, to Leopold. Leopold writes to Hochbaum that he is "flirting with the almanac idea" for the essay collection. Fall Leopold undertakes extensive drafting and revising of essays. July Leopold overhauls structure of the collection, adopts new tide "Great Possessions" , composes "The Land Ethic," and drafts foreword. Louis to discuss the manuscript and illustrations; Schwartz agrees soon thereafter to provide illustrations.

Fall —Winter Leopold continues to draft and revise essays. Oxford University Press publishes original volume in paperback. Even as science was improving the capacity of wildlife conservationists to analyze and manage, Leopold suggested that aesthetic awareness would be needed to enhance their capacity to perceive Callicott It was as if Leopold, recognizing that wildlife management's scientific underpinnings were finally well set, felt freer now to attend to its cultural and ethical bases.

In November , Leopold produced the first in a series of concise essays on farm wildlife for the Wisconsin Agriculturist and Farmer. Over the next three to four years, twenty-nine of these informative essays would appear in the widely distributed periodical. From to , Leopold would publish a similar series in the Wisconsin Conservation Bulletin. Several of these short pieces would later be incorporated, in revised form, into A Sand County Almanac.

The most significant impact of the series, however, may have been to oblige Leopold to communicate regularly with a general audience. His growing experience as a college instructor during these years also seemed to have increased his dedication to this task of raising the general level of ecological literacy. By the summer of , Leopold had begun to think about bringing several of his essays together into a volume.

In November of that year, an editor at Alfred A. Knopf wrote to Leopold indicating interest in "a good book on wildlife observation Leopold, it happened, had already been discussing such a project with his graduate student H. Albert Hochbaum, a talented artist and waterfowl biologist. Hochbaum and Leopold were both heavily burdened with their normal workload, but they agreed to work together as time allowed. Their intense, sometimes rocky, but mutually challenging collaboration over the next several years would prove critical to the ultimate tone of the collection as a whole Ribbens ; Meine , — Leopold soon found himself with more time to devote to this project.

Leopold maintained a busy pen through , but it was not until he received a follow-up inquiry from Knopf in April that he again focused his attentions on the proposed collection. Over the next year, Leopold drafted and redrafted some of his most memorable essays. Among these, importantly, were several that drew upon Leopold's activities with his family at the exhausted piece of farm property that he had acquired in These essays in particular "Great Possessions" gave a more personal tone to the evolving book.

Private Conservation in the Public Interest

Albert Hochbaum, who was carefully reading and reviewing the drafted essays, recognized this as a turning point in Leopold's literary development. In one of many blunt but respectful exchanges between them during this period, Hochbaum encouraged Leopold in this new direction. As you round out this collection, take a sidewise glance at this fellow and decide just how much of him you want to put on paper" Meine , Committed to the new course the collection was now taking, Leopold changed its working tide to "Thinking Like a Mountain—And Other Essays.

He sent these off to Knopf and to an editor at the Macmillan Company who had also expressed interest in Leopold's writing. Both publishers turned down the manuscript. Macmillan, citing wartime paper shortages, rejected it outright. Knopf's editor felt that the essays were simply too varied in tone, length, and subject to hang together. The Knopf review, however, gave Leopold room for hope that, with extensive revision and additional essays, these stylistic and structural problems could be overcome. By the end of , Leopold indicated to Hochbaum that he was playing with "the almanac idea Other professional obligations absorbed Leopold's time over the following year.

Not until the war was over, another rejection letter was received this one from the University of Minnesota Press , and the correspondence with Knopf was reestablished did Leopold return to his disparate batch of essays. In correspondence with Knopf in the spring of , Leopold suggested that he might add several of the more "philosophical" essays he had published in professional journals—thus making the unity of the essays even more problematic.

Knopf's skeptical but supportive editor pointed out the difficulty in "fitting the pieces together in a way that will not seem haphazard or annoying to the reader" Ribbens Through the remainder of and into early , this would remain a quandary for Leopold. Once more, other responsibilities and a substantial influx of returning students prevented him from focusing on his extracurricular writing.

What little time he had to spare for the essays usually found him, before dawn, at his desk in his university office, wielding the pencils and yellow legal pads that he typically used in his later years. Although Leopold was unable to work on his manuscript with any regularity during this time, he intermittently drafted new essays and revised older ones. And he continued to wrestle with the essential dilemma of the collection: how to meld into a coherent whole his descriptive field sketches, his ecological cautionary tales, and his statements of conservation philosophy.

As of spring , the manuscript hung in limbo. Because of other commitments, Hochbaum had withdrawn as illustrator. Leopold, as the head and sole faculty member of his department, was preoccupied with accommodating the postwar boom in student enrollment. And he was increasingly distracted by the painful facial spasms associated with trigeminal neuralgia or tic douloureux , with which he had been afflicted since late Finally, in the summer of , Leopold found time to devote himself exclusively to the essays.

In this crucial period, the collection, which Leopold was now calling "Great Possessions," assumed the form that its eventual readers would recognize. Leopold drafted a lengthy foreword that provided autobiographical context for the essays. He divided the manuscript into three parts. In the first, he used the almanac format to bring order to the "shack" essays. In the second, he gathered the recollections and ecological interpretations of other landscapes in his experience. In the third section, he included four of his more conceptual discussions of conservation themes, including his newly synthesized summary statement, "The Land Ethic" Meine With renewed hope, Leopold sent the overhauled manuscript back to Knopf in early September.

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Scheduled to undergo brain surgery later that month at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Leopold had made his summer one of determined and uninterrupted concentration. The rejection letter from Knopf arrived in early November. Knopf's editors again found the collection "far from being satisfactorily organized as a book," adding that it was "unlikely to win approval from readers or to be a successful publication as it now stands" Meine , Giving up on Knopf, Leopold allowed his son Luna to assume the role of literary agent.

He rewrote the long foreword "the better to orient the reader on how and why the essays add up to a single idea" [Leopold ] and, in December , sent the manuscript to the two new prospective publishers. The four previous rejections might have hobbled Leopold's expectations, but over the winter, he continued to draft new essays including "Good Oak". Following Luna's recommendation, he secured a new illustrator, Charles Schwartz, then working with the Missouri Conservation Commission. As Leopold recuperated fitfully from his surgery, he waited for word.

Both publishers were reading the manuscript with approval. Oxford responded first. On 14 April , Oxford editor Philip Vaudrin called Leopold in Madison to inform him that the manuscript had been accepted for publication. They discussed plans for final revisions, with the goal of having the book available in the fall of One week later, on 21 April, Leopold suffered a fatal heart attack while fighting a neighbor's grass fire near the shack. After the profound shock of Leopold's death had eased, Luna Leopold assumed responsibility for seeing the manuscript through to publication.

Working with Joe Hickey, Frances and Frederick Hamerstrom, and other close colleagues and students of Leopold, Luna negotiated the final terms of publication with Oxford University Press. This team collaborated in making final editorial decisions. Several essays were added, shifted, or renamed, but most of the alterations to Leopold's manuscript were minor. The team felt that it was better to leave Leopold's work intact than to risk making inappropriate changes. Luna Leopold did agree, reluctantly, to one significant change. Oxford considered Leopold's tide, "Great Possessions," too obscure and too Dickensian.

Consultations among Oxford's editors, Luna, and the editorial panel yielded several alternative tides, none of which seemed to capture the book's characteristic tone of concern tempered by gentle irony and understated wonder. In the end, they chose for the title the heading of the manuscript's first section, "A Sand County Almanac.

However, even this rudimentary account reveals that Leopold was deeply devoted to the project's overarching goal—so much so that he persisted through multiple rejections, continual questioning of content and style, and a series of difficult personal challenges. The goal was to break down "the senseless barrier between science and art," to unite informed observation of the living world, through the lens of ecology and evolutionary biology, with an enriched appreciation of the world's inherent beauty and drama.

At the same time, Leopold plainly understood that this was not simply an exercise in ecological aesthetics. Throughout the s, trends in world events, human relations, and human interactions with the natural world weighed heavily on Leopold and on many of his like-minded colleagues in the conservation movement. A careful reading of A Sand County Almanac provides ample clues that this was definitely a book of its time.

From "Pines above the Snow": "[T]he growth was long in all pines; perhaps they saw the shadow of things to come, and made a special effort to show the world that pines still know where they are going, even though men do not" Leopold , From "Wilderness": "Ability to see the cultural value of wilderness boils down, in the last analysis, to a question of intellectual humility. The shallow-minded modern who has lost his rootage in the land assumes that he has already discovered what is important; it is such who prate of empires, political or economic, that will last a thousand years" Leopold , From "The Land Ethic": "In human history, we have learned I hope that the conqueror role is eventually self-defeating" Leopold , And it might also have something to offer in our efforts to achieve more decent human relations.

Those chances seemed to be diminishing at the time. Faced with the postwar prospect of unprecedented economic and technological changes, and overwhelmed by the shift away from the field-oriented biology at which he excelled, Leopold spared no words in his critique of the forces driving the scientific agenda. In a address to the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, he stated, "Science, as now decanted for public consumption, is mainly a race for power. Science has no respect for the land as a community of organisms, no concept of man as a fellow passenger in the odyssey of evolution" Meine , He was equally forthright in criticizing the various component fields of conservation to which he himself had contributed so importantly.

He shared with his students his concern that conservation, too, suffered from the fallacy, "clearly borrowed from modern science, that the human relation to land is only economic. It is, or should be, esthetic as well. In this respect our current culture, and especially our science, is false, ignoble, and self-destructive" Flader and Callicott , - Harsh words to cast upon the ears of listening undergraduates. Ecology, he would state in another context, opens one's senses to a "world of wounds" Leopold 3, Characteristically, Leopold lightened his message to his students by pointing out the fringe benefits of ecological literacy: "I am trying to teach you that this alphabet of 'natural objects' spells out a story, which he who runs may read—if he knows how.

Once you learn to read the land, I have no fear of what you will do to it, or with it. And I know many pleasant things it will do to you" Flader and Callicott , Through A Sand County Almanac, Leopold sought to teach others to read the land, to recognize the wounds, and to savor the pleasures. By his very tone, he conveyed his trust in their ability to do so, and to act on what they read, learned, and enjoyed. This was for Leopold the solid foundation upon which conservation had to be built. In his unassuming and idiosyncratic book of essays, Leopold showed that we may move mountains by allowing the mountains—and the skies, the oceans, the freshwaters, the marshes, the forests, the prairies, the deserts, and all of the lives, human and otherwise, they contain—to move us.

The land aesthetic. Dunlap, T. Saving America's wildlife. Princeton, N. Thinking like a mountain: Aldo Leopold and the evolution of an ecological attitude toward deer, wolves, and forests. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. Report to the American Game Conference on an American game policy. New York: American Game Association. Report on a game survey of the north central states. Madison, Wise. Game management. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Threatened species.

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American Forests — Marshland elegy. Teaching wildlife conservation in public schools. The thick-billed parrot in Chihuahua. Condor — Conservation esthetic. Bird-Lore — A biotic view of land. The state of the profession. Journal of Wildlife Management Letter to Philip Vandren, 28 November. Round River: from thejournals of Aldo Leopold.

McCabe, R. Aldo Leopold: mentor. Building "The Land Ethic. Aldo Leopold: his life and work. The oldest task in human history. In A new century for natural resources management, eds. Knight and S. Bates, 7 — 3 5. Sierra Madre upshot: ecological and agricultural health. In Cultures of habitat: on nature, culture, and story, 4 3 — 5 6. Ribbens, D. The making of A Sand County Almanac. Callicott, 91 — An American crusade for wildlife. KNIGHT Among the shelves of published American works, there resides a slim volume of essays written by an lowan who became a forester, then a wildlife manager, and later a teacher, and who died a visionary.

These essays, written during the early morning hours in his office on the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin, were drawn from his experiences at a shack on a sand county farm along the banks of the Wisconsin River. Wilson had in mind when he coined the word "biophilia" Wilson Because we evolved from nature, we still carry a part of nature in our hearts, in our souls, and in our heads. This is where humans feel their relationship with and responsibilities to the land. Few have equaled Leopold's ability to evoke the complexity of human-land relations.

And, central to this essay, none has written such balanced words regarding our obligations to public and private lands. Public and Private Lands The time is more urgent than ever for honest conversations about public and private lands because we stand at a threshold. If we so vociferously defend our property rights, where do we include in our discussions of land our responsibilities to it?

These questions are relevant and rise out of a dichotomy in American society. On the one hand, Americans appear to be increasingly self-absorbed, more interested in how they will benefit rather than what they will bestow. On the other, Americans are becoming more involved in land-related issues, reflected in the phenomenal growth in open-space initiatives and land trusts and in the strongly proenvironment sentiments expressed in public opinion surveys.

Critical to these discussions about land are conversations involving the milieus of public and private lands. Although our lands are dissected by administrative boundaries of federal, state, and local jurisdictions, and further fragmented by private ownership, they are part of a much greater ecological fabric defined by watersheds, flyways, plant communities, ecological processes such as fire, and other powerful natural phenomena that almost always defy legal boundaries.

Our discussions about what type of society we are building will not be complete until they involve both public and private lands, for they are entwined ecologically, politically, culturally, and economically Knight and Landres Aldo Leopold was aware of the distinctions and commonalities between public and private lands. He understood how human-placed, arbitrary boundary lines had divided the landscape, but he also believed that humans had the power to blend artificially fragmented landscapes back together again. Leopold was well prepared for such a holistic approach to land stewardship.

He had spent half of his career attempting to understand the public lands of the American Southwest. Later, he owned a sand county farm where he studied the flow of nutrients, weeds, and wildlife that crossed the administrative lines separating him from his neighbors. These experiences led Leopold to believe that lines could be dimmed across these boundaries: "It is a fact, patent both to my dog and myself, that at daybreak I am the sole owner of all the acres I can walk over.

It is not only boundaries that disappear but also the thought of being bounded" Leopold , We view and value these lands in quite different ways. Public lands belong to all Americans; they are part of everyone's inheritance. Private lands, however, belong to only a few with their special privileges bequeathed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Leopold appreciated that we had rights to land, both public and private, but he also regretted that we felt so few responsibilities to these same lands. There have always been tensions among Americans concerning their rights and responsibilities to land.

For much of America's early history, the government was primarily interested in giving land away. Then, with what was left—the public lands—the government became increasingly involved with trying to determine the right blend of uses that should be allowed Wilkinson Indeed, the public land base has never been static, and it was greatly augmented during the dry years of the s, when much private land was given back to the government by default. The land's value had been used up by landowners, and neither banks nor county or state governments wanted the land.

Today, there is considerable heat and rhetoric among people who espouse so-called private property rights and who lash out against the government for infringing on their liberties to do as they like with both public and private lands Echeverria and Eby If these individuals had studied their American history better, they would understand how similar, self-serving actions of earlier generations had robbed the land of much of its ecological and economic value.

In the end, with few exceptions, only our government has been able to show any consistent concern for land health Stegner But there are encouraging signs today in America regarding public and private lands. Public land management has evolved from the concept of multiple use to ecosystem management Grumbine Although not very different in principle, these two approaches are radically different in practice. Under multiple use, we overused our lands. Under ecosystem management, we have another chance to rediscover our stewardship responsibilities.

Stewardship is defined by our capacity to place land health above the land's many uses. Ecosystem management is not unlike multiple use in that it recognizes commodity and amenity uses of our lands, but it is quite different from multiple use in that it places the protection of native biological diversity on an equal footing with these customary uses. It rewards managers for crossing administrative lines and finding new ways to work cooperatively with public and private constituencies Knight and Meffe Whether ecosystem management will actually allow us to place land health above land use is the great experiment now under way.

We have never before been able to stick to this slippery and difficult path, always succumbing to an addiction to dollars before land health. Discussions about private land are also evolving for the better Weeks ; Beatley and Manning We Americans have always viewed land as property. Indeed, in our Constitution, the word land does not occur but the word property does. Because we view private ownership of land under the rubric of property, we tend to emphasize our rights rather than our responsibilities. With every passing year, however, there are more exceptions to this generalization.

From coast to coast, citizens are forming alliances to promote land health and engage in stewardship projects. My neighbors are Catherine and Evan Roberts. They ranch in Livermore, Colorado, and are what's left of a fifth-generation ranch family. They are trying to ensure that their land stays in agriculture and out of residential development, increasingly the fate of private lands in America Knight When asked how they view their ranch, they reply, "We have never felt like we owned the land, we have always felt like it owned us.

Who Speaks for the Land? In conversations about public and private lands, it is appropriate to ask, Who speaks for the land? Who are its advocates? Who sees the land as an entity not only to own but also to belong to? Who recognizes that along with ownership of land comes responsibility to both the human and natural communities? Who will champion what Aldo Leopold proclaimed: That there is some basic fallacy in present-day conservation is shown by our response to it.

Instead of living it, we turn it over to bureaus. I think I know what the fallacy is. It is the assumption, clearly borrowed from modern science, that the human relation to land is only economic. In this respect our present culture. Flader and Callicott , I would guess that when most Americans think about land outside the city, they envision national parks and forests—the gems that dazzle in our nation's crown: Yosemite, Mesa Verde, Acadia, Mount Rainier, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains.

We wait in lines at their entrance stations; we flock to their visitor centers. But, as conservationists, we must also consider our private lands—the working lands, or better put, the "middle lands" of America. Who will speak for these landscapes that constitute most of our country's land base? Who will attend to the lands situated between our cities on the one hand and our parks and wilderness areas on the other, the lands that historically have served as both the breadbasket and the heartland of our nation?

Biodiversity, ecosystem management, sustainable development, and ecological restoration are concepts as relevant to our nation's private lands as they, seemingly overnight, have become to our public lands. And, importantly, as we begin a new century and enter a new millennium, it appears that history and public policy have converged to forever shift America's preoccupation with public lands to a larger commitment to stewardship for all lands, public and private.

More than at any time in decades, Americans seem ready for discourse on both public and private land issues. We are ready to capture the true spirit of integrated land conservation that Leopold pegged: I do not challenge the purchase of public lands for conservation. I do challenge the growing assumption that bigger buying is a substitute for private conservation practice. Bigger buying, I fear, is serving as an escape-mechanism—it masks our failure to solve the harder problem.

The geographic cards are stacked against its ultimate success. It is exactly as effective as buying half an umbrella. Raised in Burlington, Iowa, he knew only private land in his youth Meine He prowled the river sloughs and bottomland forests of the Mississippi. He walked the rich mosaic of farmland, prairie groves, and marshes. He counted the roosting flights of wood ducks on fall evenings and hunted prairie chickens on remnant tallgrass plains. However, when age, education, and a job allowed, he migrated to the American West and its immense public domain.

For fifteen years he worked the national forests of Arizona and New Mexico. And he learned a good deal. He began to see that human uses of land could be beneficial or harmful, depending on the user's sense of stewardship; that soil had to be carefully cultivated and was no more deeded to the land than the wind that brushed across it; that the behavior of deer, mountain lions, wolves, and grizzly bears was as intricately designed as the bones, sinews, and fibers that made their bodies so graceful; that humans could easily disrupt such intricate relationships.

He became imbued with the mystery found in land still so vast and roadless that it could only be crossed on horseback or on foot. Out of Leopold's experiences came the spark that ignited the American wilderness movement, as important in its own way as the earlier idea of national parks, both of which indelibly mark America and Americans as lovers of public lands. Leopold thought long and hard about what he had seen and learned on these public lands, and many of the essays in A Sand County Almanac reflect his concern for our relationship to these lands.

His extended stay in the wildlands of the American Southwest influenced him profoundly. He wrote in A Sand County Almanac: A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an out-burst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world. Every living thing pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow, to the coyotes a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of ALDO LEOPOLD 41 fang against bullet.

Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf. Leopold , Leopold's deep appreciation of wilderness, expressed in deeds as well as words, defined the wilderness movement. This would have been an achievement enough for one lifetime. But Leopold's thinking continued to mature and, before he was through, he left us the land ethic, a philosophy encapsulated in this statement: "We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.

When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect" Leopold , x. We might ask, If Leopold had stayed on the public lands of the American West, would he have ever written his land ethic? Could he have written something like this: "We end, I think, at what might be called the standard paradox of the twentieth century: our tools are better than we are, and grow better faster than we do.

They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides. But they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history: to live on a piece of land without spoiling it" Flader and Callicott , To live on a piece of land without spoiling it. One does not live on public lands. What life experiences, beyond his tenure on the public lands, led Leopold to plumb the depths of human relationships to land so fully that his writings ring true a half-century later?

What experiences caused him to write of conservation increasingly as a protest against destructive land use? Government, no matter how good, can only do certain things. Government can't raise crops, maintain small scattered structures, administer small scattered areas, or bring to bear on small local matters that combination of solicitude, foresight, and skill which we call husbandry. Husbandry watches no clock, knows no season of cessation, and for the most part is paid in love, not dollars. Husbandry is the heart of conservation.

Flader and Callicott , What happened to Leopold, of course, is that he changed home ranges. Inexplicably, or so it seems in reading his biography, Leopold awoke one morning and looked eastward. He then moved back to the Midwest. Why would he decide to shift his attention from a region defined by its abundance of public lands to an area of mosdy privately owned farms?

We may never know the answer, but, to me, Leopold's move serves as a powerful metaphor for what is occurring across America today. Perhaps symbolically, Leopold's physical and intellectual shift from public to private lands heralded a major shift in thinking that today we see rippling across our land; it's a shift that will reright the scales and provide a new balance in discussions of public and private lands Diamond and Noonan Typically ahead of his time in thinking about important conservation issues, might Aldo Leopold also have anticipated the need to consider our private lands, our working landscapes?

He did. His writings leave a rich legacy in this regard: "The crux of the problem is that every landowner is the custodian of two interests, not always identical, the public interest and his own. What we need is a private inducement or reward for the landowner who respects both interests in his actual land practice.

All conservation problems— erosion, forestry, game, wild flowers, landscapes—ultimately boil down to this" Leopold So in discussing public and private land issues, I would suggest these conversations are forever entwined, indivisible on the land, even with our helterskelter administrative, survey, and ownership boundaries. Even with our jumbled and diverse human land uses. Even with our determination, usually fueled by an economic motive, to find a use for every inch of land.

I believe this because our public and private lands are America. The landscape that defines our homes is a mosaic of public and private lands. Leopold might never have developed his land ethic had he not moved back to the Midwest and studied conservation on agricultural lands. I believe that his land ethic— a philosophy that increasingly shapes our thinking in discussions of humanland relationships—required an equal measure of experiences on public and private lands before it was properly seasoned.

Non Fiction

The Upshot Leopold's land ethic, and the critical role private land played in its development, provides a useful bridge to the present. The importance of agricultural land in our nation's consciousness, while always present, has, nonetheless, receded during the past several decades Berry As the American landscape became increasingly urban, Americans' preoccupation with the public lands as our playgrounds grew. Now, the tide has turned, and with changing demographics and sentiments, the fate of our private lands is once more coming to the foreground in our thinking.

Today, Americans are increasingly interested in the relationship among private land, its productivity, and its stewardship. Stewardship values, as measured in soil retention, water conservation, and biodiversity, are applied to working landscapes, where food and fiber are produced. This is the sort of agriculture that Leopold had in mind when he wrote, "Conservation means harmony between men and land. When land does well for its owner, and the owner does well by his land; when both end up better by reason of their partnership, we have conservation.

When one or the other grows poorer, we do not" Flader and Callicott , 25 5. The upshot of these changes in sentiment is that we are entering an era when Americans will become conscientious stewards of not only our national parks and wildlands, but also our middle grounds, the working landscapes that provide essential commodities. These lands are the embodiment of a rural America that seems to be disappearing and whose loss we miss more with the demise of every family farm and ranch Beatley and Manning Under the banner "America's private lands: a geography of hope," the NRCS is championing a movement that values stewardship activities on private land and reflects a shared responsibility between public and private interests NRCS In the private sector, The Nature Conservancy is perhaps the most conspicuous organization nationwide that is practicing community-based conservation in efforts to blend use and conservation across ecoregions Weeks Americans are beginning to realize the importance of agricultural lands to their own personal happiness.

We can no longer take for granted that these working landscapes will always remain intact or that they will always serve as the pleasing interface we drive through when going from town to city, or city to wilderness. For this reason alone, Americans will increasingly turn to organizations and agencies who are involved in conversations about the two-thirds of our country that is private land.

It is the rapid loss of private lands to development that may lead Americans to finally champion the conservation of all lands, the soil and water that they protect, the multiple and sustainable uses of public and private lands, and our natural heritage, the only true birthright of all Americans. I sense that we are close to this point. One can see it in a hundred watershed and community-based conservation initiatives across America Yaffee et al.

Representatives of public and private lands and local and national organizations are forging new methods of doing business that emphasize cooperation, not conflict; community values, not individualism; land health, not land wealth; and land responsibilities, not land rights. This was the conversation that Leopold had in mind. He wrote many evocative and suggestive words about the need for improved human-land relationships. By caring about both people and healthy landscapes, in A Sand County Almanac he left us a key to the wisdom we seek on how to live better, fuller lives.

Let Leopold have the last word: The song of a river ordinarily means the tune that waters play on rock, root, and rapid. This song of the waters is audible to every ear, but there is other music in these hills, by no means audible to all. To hear a few notes of it you must first live here for a long time, and you must know the speech of the hills and rivers. Then on a still night, when the campfire is low and the Pleiades have climbed over the rimrocks, sit quietly and listen for a wolf to howl and think hard of everything you have seen and tried to understand. Then you may hear it — a vast pulsing harmony — its score inscribed on a thousand hills, its notes the lives and deaths of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and centuries.

Leopold 1 , References Baskin, Y. The work of nature: how the diversity of life sustains us. Beatley, T. The ecology of place: planning for environment, economy, and community. The gift of good land. New York: North Point Press. Diamond, H. Land use in America. Echeverria, J. Eby, eds. Let the people judge: wise use and the private property rights movement. Grumbine, R. Ghost bears: exploring the biodiversity crisis. Knight, R. Field report from the new American West. In Wallace Stegner and the continental vision, ed. Meine, — Landres, eds.

Stewardship across boundaries. Ecosystem management: agency liberation from command and control. Wildlife Society Bulletin — Some thoughts on recreational planning. Parks and Recreation A sand county almanac with other essays on conservation from Round River. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

America's private land: a geography of hope. Stegner, W. The American West as living space. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Weeks, W. Beyond the ark: toolsfor an ecosystem approach to conservation. Wilkinson, C. Crossing the next meridian: land, water, and thefuture of the West. Cambridge, Mass. Yaffee, A. Philips, R. Frenty, P. Hardy, S. Maleki, and B. Ecosystem management in the United States: an assessment of current experience. Chapter 3. Heat radiated from scorched, rolling fields, sunup to sundown. Images of cool meadows and clear, rapid creeks invaded my thoughts.

I was to begin radio-tracking cougars in the Idaho Primitive Area in January. I needed to get into "the country" to explore limits and define expectations for my new equipment. But German barred my way. I had to pass a German exam, an archaic hurdle on the way to a Ph. Day in and day out I struggled with the German language. Despite my surname, I was not a particularly strong student. My increasing cognitive dissonance demanded relief.

Al Franzmann, my fellow graduate student and a far more talented German linguist, advised that this was no solution; I was creating a mirage equal to any created by the scorching sun on the Palouse landscape, he told me. Learning German, not basking in Aldo Leopold's vision, was the point. I would wither with frustration. In those half-hour interludes, I escaped, transported by Leopold's spare, beautiful prose and his vision of why and how we can relate to land.

Just a little Leopold vision each day, then back to the engineering side of my schooling, learning German. Sand County Almanac ended too quickly. That grass fire in the sand counties that cut Leopold's life short also cut his narrative short, I felt. I wanted him around to help flesh out his vision. Now I believe that this is the purity and beauty of Leopold's humanland vision: it is as fleshed out as it needs to be.

The rest is up to us. Living Wild German out of the way, I immersed myself in following the day-to-day activities of cougars living in the large, natural landscape of what is known today as the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The climate and rugged relief of the Salmon and Snake River canyons shaped the moral and social nature of all of us who lived there, as it shaped the social organization of the cats I was following.

Leopold never visited the Salmon River Mountains, but his ideas had molded the character of the landscape that I was experiencing. Alarmed by the rapid loss of roadless mountain country in the southwestern United States in the early s, he lobbied for the withdrawal from production of the last few large national forest roadless areas Leopold , like the deep canyons and mountain basins where I tracked my cougars.

Road building and extractive activities such as logging and livestock grazing were banned here, but not hunting or other recreational activities deemed compatible with wilderness values. Seeking to define wilderness, Leopold wrote of being present as a wolf died and watching "the fierce green fire dying in her eyes" Leopold , And he wrote of how the last grizzly in the Southwest walked into the string of a set gun and shot itself.

How fortunate I am, I felt, living here and learning how a large mammalian predator-prey system functions in this wild area. I embraced and thrived in this country. Every day, I thanked Leopold and his contemporaries for their vision and actions that made my life here possible, for the fragments of wilderness that were left to be experienced.

Unlike Leopold's experience of watching wild eyes dying, here was a place where I could devote my energy to trying to gaze into the eyes of a living cougar. This debate was still going on when I was there, four decades later. Some people considered the remote canyons of the Idaho Primitive Area useless, bordering on dangerous, even noxious. They called it backcountry.

Private Conservation in the Public Interest

This was the watershed of the River of No Return after all. For romantic preservationists in the tradition of John Muir, this primitive area designation secured a large area in a wild and pristine state, untainted by considerations of material and economic gain. For others, this designation simply represented a waste of nature, a lockup of resources that should remain open, there for the taking, available to anyone.

The progressive conservation movement, which spawned our national forests, preached the gospel of efficiency and focused on multiple uses Hays All of us who lived in that country, that wildland, depended daily on the elk and mule deer we killed in the autumn for our winter larder, and on the cutthroat trout in summer.

The first smoked steelhead of the spring was a reason to gather over drinks and reflect on how good life was there. Locally cut firewood was essential for heating our cabins and tents. Guiding hunters and fishermen was a major source of income. We needed some limited local grazing for pack stock. We revered the roadless part of wild and primitive, but we needed chainsaws for cutting firewood and light airplanes for transport and a connection to the outside.

These things were necessary to support our life, or so we felt, and, thus, it was our right to have and use them. I come from a ranching family, and, as a graduate student, I was trained in the resource-based conservation tradition that governed the Forest Service. Yet the vision of a land ethic that Leopold had given us resonated deep within me. However, I did not see how his land ethic offered a clear resolution, or even a reduction in the tension, between the value-driven ideologies shaping political debate on the future of the Idaho Primitive Area. Even as large and wild as this land was and even with the challenges I overcame each day just to live there, both my wilderness lifestyle and this wildland seemed vulnerable rather than robustly wild.

Leopold had warned us how the wild could easily slip away. I could not shake the nagging feeling that the prospects for this wild area, or great portions of it, were shaky at best. People had radically different reactions to the concept of wild. Certainly our privileged way of life, a life subsidized by local natural resources, would change in changing our legal designation from a primitive area to a wilderness area—that was certain.

My cougars, the cats I had gotten to know intimately, were protected by a fiveyear moratorium on hunting while we conducted this study; they would soon become game again. I attended a hearing on setting the boundaries of the new wilderness area and found myself in lockstep with an outfitter who lived and worked on Big Creek. We didn't agree on most things in life, but we agreed on two that night: make the wilderness area as big as possible and keep the trail bikes out. I continued to look to Leopold's land ethic for guidance, as a religious person would look to the Bible, but at that time I couldn't find withinA Sand County Almanac a resolution to the on-the-ground conflict that was threatening my wildland.

I looked to the transcendentalists for some grounding: "in wildness is the preservation of the world" Thoreau in Nash , I was living in wildness. After a day of radio-tracking and snow-tracking cougars, I would read Thoreau's Walden Thoreau in the glow of a gas lamp in a winter camp.

I had saved Walden for such a time and place. Thoreau's romantic-transcendental conservation ethic didn't resonate with me there, and I couldn't finish the book. Thoreau's Walden Pond and his wild were just down the railroad tracks from his mother's kitchen in a rural, human-dominated, northeastern landscape Foster That seemed very tame to me at that time, compared to the wild experience I was living. I reread Leopold in an almost religious fervor in an effort to calm the cognitive dissonance created by my background and training in utilitarian conservation and my day-to-day experience in a vulnerable wildland.

I reread his words: Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. It assumes falsely, I think, that the economic parts of the biotic clock will function without the uneconomic parts. He had constructed an overarching vision with his land ethic. I had been blocked in my view of the wild because I was seeking resolution in my mind in a limited dimension based on a single resource.

But Leopold had clearly escaped this two-dimensional space and had soared into a threedimensional world in his land ethic vision. With my colleague, John Messick, I spent perhaps the most physically demanding day of my life trying to find a female cougar on her summer home area, in terrain incised with cliffs and stands of Douglas fir on sharp, protected slopes rising three thousand feet above the south bank of Big Creek.

We had little water and no food that day. I wasn't sure I would survive until late that night when I finally dragged into camp. Perhaps I wouldn't have without John. I could easily die here. I wouldn't have traded it for any other experience. I did it because it was what I valued. My dissonance and the public tension over this wilderness and the concept of wild came down to questions of value and valuation.


  • Aldo Leopold | Acton Institute.
  • Mekong Erotics: Men Loving Pleasuring Using Men in Lao PDR.
  • The Good Soldier (Websters German Thesaurus Edition).
  • Aldo Leopold and the Ecological Conscience;
  • Other Subject Areas.
  • Aldo Leopold and the Ecological Conscience.

Ah, but from where do we derive our values and valuations? I greatly valued this wildland and the experience it created for me. Leopold's land ethic, as a road map for escaping a two-dimensional view of the resource-conservation ethic, bubbled up through my consciousness that night.

John stayed on the ridge to radio-track our cougar the next day. In the still, early morning light, I walked the ridge trail to the Rush Point fire tower on my way back to our base at Taylor Ranch on lower Big Creek. Spreading before and all around me for as far as I could see were the canyons and ridges of the Salmon River Mountains.

Before me was a landscape that existed because conservation had been pursued within a conceptual framework of sustainable landscapes that included areas free of resource extraction. The prevailing resourceconservation paradigm would have blanketed the entire forest estate in sustained use. We need our wildland as well as our usable land. Leopold implored us to value wilderness as a standard against which to judge the changes we make and their impact on landscapes. He didn't see wilderness as a flat mental construct. There were many contrasting, even polar, ecological constructs forming the basic architecture of his writing: birth-death, origin-evolution, equilibrium-nonequilibrium, predator-prey, ecological integrity—environmental decay and loss.

In building an overarching land ethic, was Leopold not suggesting that we see landscapes in a new way, with one pole of our human-land vision anchored in the "wildland" and the other in the "urban" environment? In his vision, he was asking us not just to understand the wild and wilderness but also to understand and work with the middle grounds, those inherently unstable "middle landscapes" Tuan in a more inclusive way. How can we understand and maintain the value of these middle landscapes unless we can appreciate and see them as more than a wellspring of resources and products?

We must recognize that such landscapes form a complex and integrated system of interdependent processes and components, many under extreme stress. Forest Service. By he had moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to study ecology and understand more about conservation; while there he held the chair position in game management at the University of Wisconsin. In , Leopold and his wife, Estella, acquired an overgrown and abandoned farm in Sauk County near Baraboo, Wisconsin. This property had been over farmed and logged for many decades. The Leopold family began planting trees and restoring the land.

Carefully documenting his restorative efforts, Leopold concluded that overused land could indeed be brought back to life with enough care and work. Leopold fought for conservation but was not impressed by government intervention. He considered it a Band-Aid. After years of work studying and protecting the land, Leopold died of a heart attack on April 21, Today, the Leopold Memorial Reserve, 1, private acres of land that includes the original farm restored by Leopold and his family, is managed by the Sand Castle Foundation. The land is used for experiments in restoration, much like those that Leopold himself conducted.

The original landowners retain titles to their land but agree to avoid any action that could harm the natural habitats. They follow various guidelines set by the foundation. It schedules tours, seminars and school visits to the reserve. Some changes made.



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