“As a society, we are just now beginning to realize the depth of Leopold’s work and thinking.”
- Mike Dombeck, Chief Emeritus U.S. Forest Service, Professor of Global Environmental Management UW-Stevens Point, UW System Fellow of Global Conservation
Considered by many as the father of wildlife management and of the United States’ wilderness system, Aldo Leopold was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast.
Born in 1887 and raised in Burlington, Iowa, Aldo Leopold developed an interest in the natural world at an early age, spending hours observing, journaling, and sketching his surroundings. Graduating from the Yale Forest School in 1909, he eagerly pursued a career with the newly established U.S. Forest Service in Arizona and New Mexico. By the age of 24, he had been promoted to the post of Supervisor for the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. In 1922, he was instrumental in developing the proposal to manage the Gila National Forest as a wilderness area, which became the first such official designation in 1924.
Following a transfer to Madison, Wisconsin in 1924, Leopold continued his investigations into ecology and the philosophy of conservation, and in 1933 published the first textbook in the field of wildlife management. Later that year he accepted a new chair in game management – a first for the University of Wisconsin and the nation.
In 1935, he and his family initiated their own ecological restoration experiment on a worn-out farm along the Wisconsin River outside of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Planting thousands of pine trees, restoring prairies, and documenting the ensuing changes in the flora and fauna further informed and inspired Leopold.
A prolific writer, authoring articles for professional journals and popular magazines, Leopold conceived of a book geared for general audiences examining humanity’s relationship to the natural world. Unfortunately, just one week after receiving word that his manuscript would be published, Leopold experienced a heart attack and died on April 21, 1948 while fighting a neighbor’s grass fire that escaped and threatened the Leopold farm and surrounding properties. A little more than a year after his death Leopold’s collection of essays A Sand County Almanac was published. With over two million copies sold, it is one of the most respected books about the environment ever published, and Leopold has come to be regarded by many as the most influential conservation thinker of the twentieth century.
Leopold’s legacy continues to inform and inspire us to see the natural world “as a community to which we belong.”
Check out this interactive Google map of locations Leopold lived in, wrote about, and visited throughout his life.
Thank you to Dan Styer (one of our members) for creating and sharing the map!
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Download printable Aldo Leopold Fact Sheet (2-page pdf file)