Getting to Know Aldo Leopold

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Messages about the health of the Earth’s ecosystems come from many directions – from our friends and family, TV commercials, and even on this blog! Today there are reminders everywhere to be good stewards of our planet and conserve for future generations … but that wasn’t always the case. How did people hear conservation messages 100 years ago when no one really knew what conservation was? A man named Aldo Leopold got people talking.

Here’s how Mr. Leopold defined conservation:

“A way of life in which land does well for its inhabitants, citizens do well by their land, and both end up better by reason of partnership.”

There’s a lot we can learn about conservation from our friend Aldo since he is who many people consider being the “father of wildlife conservation.”

Born January 11, 1887, in Iowa, Leopold spent most of his life spreading the word about conservation. He graduated from Yale Forest School with a master’s degree in forestry. At age 24 he became the supervisor for the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. While at this post, he played a huge role in creating a plan to recognize Gila National Forest, the first wilderness area ever created within a national park.

We have Aldo Leopold to thank for a number of other conservation “firsts.” In 1933, he became the head of the nation’s first game management graduate program located at the University of Wisconsin. Leopold also published the first textbook ever written about wildlife management.

Aldo Leopold is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac. In this collection of short essays, Leopold stressed the importance of conservation and encouraged readers to think twice about how they treat the land that they share with thousands of other species of life. How did he do that? One word: observation. Leopold loved nature. That’s why he was so passionate about conserving it. To get ideas for his famous book, he just went outside. He watched. He listened. He appreciated the beautiful world we live in and learned from what he was seeing.

Leopold did most of his observing at a place called “The Shack.” In 1935 he purchased a rundown farm on the bank of the Wisconsin River. There he converted an old chicken coop into a small home that is still standing today. Along with his wife, five children, and students, Leopold spent most of his spare time working to improve the land surrounding The Shack. Leopold and his friends gardened, cut firewood, and planted an estimated 40,000 trees! Even after Aldo Leopold’s death in 1948, fellow conservationists kept the site looking green and healthy. What used to be a barren landscape is now a thriving ecosystem of plant and animal life. What a great example of how humans can provide positive change to the environments we live in.

A Sand County Almanac is filled with Leopold’s many observations and insights about why everyone should practice conservation. People listened when the book was published in 1949, and they’re still listening today. This conservation book has sold more than two million copies and has been translated into nine different languages. Conservationists like you and I are in charge of continuing Aldo Leopold’s legacy.

“That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.” – Aldo Leopold

This quote from Mr. Leopold is full of big words, but it is a perfect description of why conservation is so important. Pick apart the meaning of this quote with a teacher or other adult. E-mail me at Sam’s Inbox and tell me what you think our friend Aldo means in this quote. Do you have any other conservation ideas? Send those to me, too. Remember to get out there and observe the beauty of nature. Get off the computer, unplug your video game system, turn off the television and GO OUTSIDE! It’s a great way to remind you why conservation is so important.

When you go outside, try some of these things:

1.     Breathe in the fresh air
2.     Feel the sun on your face
3.     Plant a tree
4.     Journal about what you see
5.     Water a thirsty flower
6.     Take a picture
7.     Draw a picture
8.     EXPLORE!!!!

VOCAB

Barren: (adjective) unproductive, lifeless
Convert: (verb) to change one thing into something else
Ecosystem: (noun) a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment
Encourage: (verb) to inspire
Inhabitant: (noun) a resident of an area; dweller; occupant
Insight: (noun) discovery of the true nature of something
Master’s Degree: (noun) a degree awarded for completing graduate school following undergraduate studies
Observation: (noun) the act of watching and noticing your surroundings
Partnership: (noun) a binding relationship between two or more parties carrying on a joint purpose with the goal of making a profit or improving
Passionate: (adjective) having very strong feelings or emotions about a certain topic
Recognize: (verb) to identify as existing or true
Species: (noun) a class of individuals having some common characteristics or qualities
Steward (of the land): (noun) a person who is motivated to take an active role in caring for the land not just for personal gain, but to benefit future generations, society in general, and the land itself.
Stress: (verb) to emphasize
Supervisor: (noun) a person who watches over or manages activities, the person in charge
Thrive: (verb) to prosper or be successful

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