Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Conservationist Aldo Leopold

Lately, I have written a number of posts about the various hunting and trapping seasons here in NJ. So, today, when I saw on an almanac that it was the birthday of Aldo Leopold, I thought I should post a bit on him to balance the scales.

Aldo Leopold is the author of a key book in the conservation movement, A Sand County Almanac.

He was one of those kids that was drawn to the outdoors. After college, he entered Yale's forestry graduate program (one of the first in the country - not something you'd expect from an Ivy school) and became one of the nation's first professional foresters.

One of his assignments was to hunt livestock predators in a New Mexico national forest. But as he observed the bears, wolves, and mountain lions, he concluded that removing them had a broader impact on the entire ecosystem.

He developed a philosophy that humans should not dominate the land.  He popularized a definition of "wilderness" that meant nature in its own, untended state, rather than the conventional idea that wilderness is land for outdoor activity.

Eventually, he developed the first management plan for the Grand Canyon. He wrote the Forest Service's first game and fish handbook. He formed The Wilderness Society with other conservationists in 1935.

His "sand county" farm (worn out land purchased for $8 an acre) near the Wisconsin River, became his real world experiment. He planted 40,000 pine trees and tried to tend the land with his own conservation ethic of peaceful coexistence with nature. He documented this in essays collected in A Sand County Almanac.

The book was published in 1948, one week before he died of a heart attack while battling a grass fire.

(via Amazon) ...A Sand County Almanac has enthralled generations of nature lovers and conservationists and is indeed revered by everyone seriously interested in protecting the natural world. Hailed for prose that is "full of beauty and vigor and bite" (The New York Times), it is perhaps the finest example of nature writing since Thoreau's Walden.

... the heart of the book remains Leopold's carefully rendered observations of nature. Here we follow Leopold throughout the year, from January to December, as he walks about the rural Wisconsin landscape, watching a woodcock dance skyward in golden afternoon light, or spying a rough-legged hawk dropping like a feathered bomb on its prey. And perhaps most important are Leopold's trenchant comments throughout the book on our abuse of the land and on what we must do to preserve this invaluable treasure... a new generation of readers can walk beside one of America's most respected naturalists as he conveys the beauty of a marsh before sunrise or the wealth of history to be found in an ancient oak.

Much more...

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