The Wild Wander’s work is focused on celebrating the nature found in ourbackyards. It’s important to understand that these flourishing natural spaces wouldn't exist as they are today without the work ofAldo Leopold. Best known as the grandfather of theland ethic and modern conservation, he was the first to recognize an important balance in natural ecosystems.
Born in 1887,Aldo Leopold grew up with a deep appreciation for nature. He was a hunter,birder, and enthusiasticoutdoorsman as a young child. As a teenager, he studied atYale University through a newly established forestry program. After graduating, he worked inforest management in New Mexico and Arizona.
In 1924, during Leopold’s early twenties he established the first ever wilderness area in New Mexico. This was the first ever area of federal land set aside for preservation in its natural condition. It was a brand new concept that juxtaposed the unregulated and unsustainable forest clearing of The Industrial Revolution.
Leopold then went on to hold a position at theUniversity of Wisconsin in game management, a position created with his first bookGame Management. In the text he closely studied and wrote about the hunting and trapping of game animals, as well as how other industry and land use affected these populations.
While in Wisconsin, Aldo and his family spent time restoring a piece of land in Baraboo acquired as an hour’s reprieve from the city.
He “embraced the farm as a new kind of workshop or laboratory – a place to tinker and experiment with restoring health to an ailing piece of land.” according to theAldo Leopold Foundation.
He rebuilt a chicken coop on the property known as “The Shack'' where he spent time later in life writing his most prolific book.
A Sand County Almanac
Aldo’s refined and evolved philosophies around land conservation lead him to writeA Sand County Almanac. Originally titledGreat Possessions, it was edited by his son and published posthumously in 1949.
It was Aldo’s appeal to the general public that there is a moral responsibility to care for not just public, but also private land. However, his important ideas didn’t take hold until the 60’s and 70’s when themodern environmental movement gained traction.
Included inA Sand County Almanac, Leopold’s most notable contribution to environmentalism was his concept of “Land Ethic” -a philosophic or theoretical framework about how, ethically, humans should regard the land.An idea that stated that humans are not separate from nature but are community members within it and have a responsibility toward it.
Inspired by what he learned from his own land, he endeavored to shift the widespread thought that private property was about ownership and domination over the land and move the general consensus closer to belief that proper treatment was a benefit to the entire community, human or not. That if we are negligent, the overall ecology and entire community will suffer.
The Way Forward
Aldo’s work has inspired environmentalwriters,land conservationists and entire movements within environmentalism. Because of him, many advancements have been made within government policy and regulation.
Environmental scientists must consider the impact on new construction projects. Urban planners must now includetree mapping and planting to provide shade to hotter neighborhoods. But how do we keep moving forward with Aldo's idea of land ethic?
The Wild Wander draws inspiration fromnative fauna and flora that are still alive and well. However, ourField Guide to Fifty project was certainly challenged by the same issues that Leopold witnessed in his life. Forest clearing, damming projects, overhunting of wildlife, air and water pollution - all that eliminated many native species of plants and animals.
After writing our previousblogs, it’s not hard to feel like we’re in need of a reckoning back to Leopold's lessons about how to be in better community with nature. And there is no shortage of work in creating a more eco-centric view of our world.
Check out the native flora and fauna in yourstate’s guide to inspire natural conservation in your area.