Land Stewardship Programs

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.”


The Leopold Memorial Reserve

Radiating from the 150 acres Leopold purchased during his lifetime is the Leopold Memorial Reserve, a landowner cooperative established in 1965. This 1,500 acre buffer around the Leopold shack and farm provides the basis for on-going land stewardship efforts initiated on Leopold’s original 140 acres.

Building on the example of the reserve, where landowners assume greater responsibility for land stewardship, the Foundation has developed several projects designed specifically to empower private landowners. These projects provide landowners with the knowledge, tools, and resources necessary to implement a land ethic on their own land, influencing the management of almost 40,000 acres of private land.

Demonstrating Leopold's land ethic on the original Leopold Family Farm outside Baraboo, Wisconsin, the Foundation seeks to restore the ecological health and integrity of the prairie, oak savanna, woodland, and riparian communities once abundant in this area. Working closely with neighbors and other private landowners, Foundation staff, fellows, and volunteers share their stewardship expertise throughout the region to save and restore “every cog and wheel,” so that the land retains its capacity for self-renewal. Programs include the restoration and protection of over 15,000 acres through partnerships with more than 30 organizations.

Field trips for students and adults to the forests, wetlands, and prairies surrounding the Leopold Shack provide an outdoor classroom for exploring ecological relationships. The foundation also sponsors seminars, Woodland School workshops, and educational programs to provide private landowners and public land managers with the tools they need to achieve land health on their own property.


My Healthy Woods Handbooks

Through an exciting partnership with the American Forest Foundation's Center for Conservation Solutions, we've started a series of accessible and inspiring handbooks for landowners in different regions of the country called My Healthy Woods: A Handbook for Family Woodland Owners. Our first handbook, Southwest Wisconsin, has reached over 10,000 landowners, and our second, for Southern Arkansas, has reached 8,500. The third handbook, for Southeastern Minnesota, will reach 7,500 landowners.

The handbooks are:
Easy to read: we avoided technical words that lose readers at every turn.
Informative: we covered many topics and provided additional resources for more information.
Inspirational: we used images, quotes, and stories from real landowners, so that you know you’re not alone.

Our future enjoyment of a rich and beautiful landscape is only guaranteed through action. We hope that this handbook will help you see new opportunities to care for your land.

More information on the handbooks



Each year, the foundation offers two to three land stewardship fellowships. This nine-month fellowship provides hands-on experience and practical on the ground management coupled with the Leopold land ethic philosophy. This experience is designed to train fellows using the Aldo Leopold Foundation property, which serves as an outdoor classroom, to become proficient in land management tasks and develop awareness to make informed management decisions.  All stewardship fellows will be expected to be actively involved in all aspects of management. Learn more about the fellowship...


Past Projects


Of particular interest is the Farming and Conservation Together (FACT) project, a model for tapping the potential synergy between agriculture and conservation, developed as an alternative to federal purchase of a proposed national wildlife refuge. This project has received national attention because of the coming together of diverse community stakeholders to pursue a proactive solution to pressing land-use issues.

Blufflands Restoration Project

The Blufflands Restoration Project is a grassroots effort to preserve the last remaining pieces of the prairies and savannas in the lower Wisconsin River valley of southern Wisconsin. The project is a joint venture between the Aldo Leopold Foundation and The Prairie Enthusiast (TPE),a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving prairie and savanna remnants of the upper Midwest. Since European settlement in the mid-1800's the utilization of these areas for agriculture and other development has been so complete that today only 0.1% of the prairie and 0.02% of the savanna remain.

In 1989, TPE volunteers began working with private landowners on a few prairie and savanna remnants in southern Sauk and northern Dane County, Wisconsin. Volunteers conduct vegetation inventories, prescribed burns, and invasive species control. The project has grown to include 14 landowners, who log approximately 900 volunteer hours and manage nearly 300 acres. Since most of the project sites lie among the unglaciated bluffs and hills of the lower Wisconsin River valley, the work of these volunteers became known as the Blufflands Restoration Project.

Excitement and interest in the project have grown steadily since 1989 and it became clear in the past several years that a strictly volunteer effort could not keep up with requests for management and information.  Meanwhile, shrubs and non-native species continued to enroach and remnants continued to vanish.  In the spring of 1998, after several landowner donations, the Blufflands Project hired a manager to write management plans for several project sites, coordinate with landowners and volunteers to carry out the plans, and raise funds to sustain the project.

Native Plant Nursery

Because of the Aldo Leopold Foundation's involvement in numerous restoration efforts throughout south-central Wisconsin we have established a native plant nursery to supply seed of native species used in restoration plantings.  The nursery was established in 1994 as a collaboration among the Aldo Leopold Foundation, International Crane Foundation, Sand County Foundation, and Bluestem Farms. The Environmental Protection Agency provided start-up funding.

The nursery produces a reliable seed supply of rare and hard to collect species. Currently, there are 66 species growing in the nursery. Seed produced in the nursery is used in various restoration efforts throughout south-central Wisconsin.