Lifelong nature lovers, conservation enthusiasts, or ecology students may already be familiar with Aldo Leopold and his revolutionary contributions to the conservation movement. On the other hand, his name may not even ring a bell. Conservation, both in practice and in premise, has evolved drastically since Aldo Leopold’s lifetime, yet his legacy and ideas remain relevant for conservation today. You may be unfamiliar with our present-day work here at the Aldo Leopold Foundation, apart from the legacy of Aldo himself. To provide a clear overview, we've compiled a list of the 10 questions we get asked the most.
We are a passionate staff of conservationists who are dedicated to advancing an ethical relationship between people and the natural world. Founded by the five children of Aldo and Estella Leopold, we are the executors of Leopold’s literary legacy and the family’s historic Shack, a National Historic Landmark. We fuse Aldo’s time-honored wisdom with contemporary initiatives to enact positive change in our natural world and communities.
Aldo Leopold is considered by many to be the father of wildlife ecology and modern conservation. Born in 1887, Aldo was in all things a conservationist, but was also known as a forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast.
His most notable work, a collection of essays called A Sand County Almanac, was published in 1949, a year after his untimely death at age 61. Aldo Leopold wrote prolifically and A Sand County Almanac was his masterpiece. The importance of this work cannot be understated as it relates to Aldo’s legacy. Today, it is still regarded as one of the most influential pieces of nature writing. In the culminating essays was a transcendent idea: the land ethic.
In short, a land ethic is uniting ecology and ethics by living in community with the land. The term, coined by Aldo Leopold, uses the universal concept of ethics as a launchpad and expands the typical definition of “community” to include not only humans, but all of the other parts of the Earth, as well. Aldo writes, “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Aldo displayed remarkable foresight, recognizing that a land ethic must evolve along with “a thinking community.” Thus, we have the power to adopt and define our own land ethic for the current generation.
Our core initiatives involve community education, cultivation of conservation leadership, land care, and historic preservation. Some examples of this programming include an annual speaker series (including Leopold Week), habitat restoration on 4,000 acres surrounding the Leopold’s historic Shack, Leopold Fellowships, and partnerships that greatly increase outreach to landowners. No matter the program, we’re making tangible change — whether on the landscape, in the community, or on history. Through our work, we’re leading the charge toward a more harmonious relationship between people and nature.
The Leopold Shack and Farm, along with our headquarters, the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, is located in Baraboo, Wisconsin. We are open seasonally May through October, 6 days a week. For details on hours of operation and directions, visit our Hours & Location page.
We offer a variety of tour options, including self-guided, group, and private tours. We recommend making reservations for your tour when applicable. Additionally, the Leopold Shack is open to the public every Friday from May to October, 1:00-4:00 PM. For more information regarding tour pricing and availability, visit our Tours page.
Currently, we offer one standing volunteer opportunity on the first Saturday of each month. From 9-11 am, volunteers assist our Land Stewardship team on various habitat restoration projects, depending on the season. Volunteer as an individual, or bring a group! To register, please visit our Volunteer page.
Additional volunteer opportunities may be available on an as-needed basis.
We would love your support! We accept one-time or monthly donations, online or by check. If donations aren’t right for you, we also accept legacy gifts, stock donations, and charitable IRA rollovers. For more details on giving, please visit our Donate or More Ways to Give pages. We are sincerely grateful for your consideration and support.
We offer a robust library of free, digital resources, available on our Learning Hub. There, you’ll find resources ready for the classroom and community gatherings including discussion guides, films, virtual tours, and more. Additionally, we host live online programs each month, with numerous offerings during Leopold Week, which occurs annually during the first full week of March. Our programs offer a diversity of thought leaders within the conservation community and enrichment for many thousands of participants each year. Visit our Leopold Week page to access our archive of educational content from past celebrations.
The Aldo Leopold Foundation actively engages the local community and beyond through a variety of programs and initiatives. Locally we welcome visitors from around the globe to visit the historic Leopold Shack, the humble beginnings of a transformative philosophy of a land ethic. Throughout the year, we host a series of educational events with the aim to deepen participants’ commitment to caring for nature and each other.
Our online learning resources and published materials are available to educators and community members around the globe, helping to foster conversation about environmental ethics and land stewardship.
The foundation preserves and presents Aldo Leopold’s literary legacy. Through accession, digitization, and transcription projects, many thousands of pages of journals, correspondences, drafts, documents, and images within Leopold’s archive are forever preserved and freely available online. Leopold’s masterpiece, A Sand County Almanac, has been translated and published in 15 different languages. The foundation owns the Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm, a National Historic Landmark, and offers interpretive tours of how the Leopold family acted upon their own land ethic and how their work continues through us.
We put our own land ethic into practice through our work on the Leopold-Pines Conservation Area, a 4,000-acre landscape encompassing the historic property. Partnering with the Phillip and Joan Pines Family, our collaborative conservation efforts seek to enhance and restore prairie and savanna plant communities perfectly suited to our sandy, infertile soils. Our success is measured through surveys of priority grassland birds and pollinators, which are suffering steep declines across the United States. Our belief in this work manifests in public outreach through My Wisconsin Woods, which assists private landowners in navigating choices and actions.
We use the prominence of Leopold’s voice and legacy to advance the social evolution he initiated with the land ethic. Each year we engage with tens of thousands through our communication and programming, inspiring them to articulate their own land ethic and share it with others. Our foundation’s past and present work has resulted in several national conferences, numerous publications, a full-length documentary, countless curriculum elements, dozens of trainings and workshops, among much more. Our partnerships, networks, and following have only grown in a world that needs a land ethic now more than ever.
The Aldo Leopold Foundation was founded in 1982 with a mission to foster the land ethic through the legacy of Aldo Leopold, awakening an ecological conscience in people throughout the world.