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“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” -Aldo Leopold, “Foreword,” A Sand County Almanac
For decades, A Sand County Almanac has been inspiring readers to connect with the land and consider their relationship with it. The Leopold Foundation serves as an extension of the book, engaging citizens in ways to further understand and nurture their own personal land ethic. One by one, we’re adding to the community of individuals dedicated to caring about and for people, places, and everything that connects them.
At the Leopold Foundation, work starts on the ground with continued stewardship of the iconic Shack and Farm and cooperative management of the 16,000-acre Leopold – Pine Island Important Bird Area (IBA) surrounding it. Designated as crucial habitat for declining grassland bird species, the critical work of clearing and burning to restore and improve prairie and oak savanna is providing vital habitat for pollinators and bringing birds like the threatened red-headed woodpecker back to the area.
The work restoring, improving, and stewarding the land has impacts even beyond the flora and fauna. The cooperative nature of the IBA effort across varied ownerships – private, public, and individual landowners – serves as a model for other groups working on landscape-scale conservation just like Leopold’s early prairie restorations or community-based efforts like the Coon Creek Watershed. Following in his footsteps, the Leopold Foundation is transferring this knowledge, experience, and commitment to students, visitors, and practitioners through tours, fellowships, workshops, and participation in coalitions and advisory boards.
Through the award-winning, public-private partnership of My Wisconsin Woods, the foundation is engaging landowners across the state of Wisconsin to begin or enhance conservation practices on private lands. Due to its success, the effort is not only growing but was recently recognized with an appointment to the Wisconsin Governor’s Council on Forestry!
Thousands flock to visit the Leopold Center and Shack each year. In fact, we welcomed visitors from nearly all 50 states and 13 countries in 2019! Whether as part of a school group, a professional training or retreat, or simply a personal excursion, the magnitude of this historical site coupled with the foundation’s contemporary interpretations spark connections for implementing a land ethic in visitors’ day-to-day lives.
In addition to the Leopold property, A Sand County Almanac and the foundation’s documentary film Green Fire, reach a global audience: The book is available in 14 languages with three more in the works, and the film is available in five! The foundation supports the distribution of these materials through Senior Fellows, Leopold Scholars, and Land Ethic Leaders who act as ambassadors across the globe. They attend conferences, give keynote lectures, or facilitate community discussions, creating an international ripple effect!
To solve complex environmental issues, a capable, diverse group of conservation leaders is essential. The Future Leaders Program does just that, preparing college graduates to be immediately successful in their conservation careers by providing in-the-field training and a curriculum that builds leadership skills. One of the most unique aspects of this 12-month program is its immersion in Leopold’s landscape and ideas.
Leopold’s oft-emphasized thoughts about morals and ethics are all the more relevant today. In fact, a recent survey by the foundation found that over 90% of higher education staff and faculty in sustainability and environmental sciences believe that those fields have ethical context and implications. Yet, a gap exists in the delivery of the content. Based on the findings, the foundation is currently working to determine additional resources, tools, and support that can
be provided to this influential audience to close the gap.
Given all the bleak news regarding the current state and future of “all things natural, wild, and free,” it takes real courage to continue working toward change. Sometimes, it can even be difficult to continue caring. But in these times, I am reminded of another message from Leopold,
“We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.” – Aldo Leopold, “Conservation,” Round River
Your support is a testament to your commitment to a land ethic and your courage to continue caring. It is an honor to continue this important work with you. Let’s build a community that cares for wild things and each other.
With courage and gratitude,
Photo credits: Red-headed woodpecker, Ted Thousand.