News

Foundation Receives $100K Challenge to Build Future Leaders

We have lots of exciting news to share! We are investing in an expansion of our fellowship program to train and inspire future generations of conservation leaders! With an urgent need for capable, diverse leadership within the conservation community, the expansion aims to add fellowship opportunities, construct a facility to house and support fellows, and provide future support for the program.

There’s more! The Madison Community Foundation is providing a $100,000 challenge grant that will be awarded as soon as we raise $300,000 toward the overall Future Leaders Campaign goal! Here’s where we’ll need your help, but before we ask for your support, read on to find out more.

Leopold’s Legacy

Leopold and his graduate students at the Shack.

Leopold (center) with four of his graduate students and an undergrad at the Shack.

During his lifetime, Aldo Leopold taught and mentored scores of students through his position at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He is still revered for his teaching style founded in field-based experiences that fostered a deep love and respect for nature in his students. Many of his graduates went on to have accomplished careers in conservation. (Learn more on our blog!)

Since the inception of the Aldo Leopold Foundation by his children, Leopold’s legacy of fostering a caring relationship between people and land has been the mission of the organization. Even in its early years, a small but immersive fellowship program provided field-based training and experience for recent college graduates. Since 1996, 50 fellows have completed the program and over 90% have gone on to conservation careers. The Future Leaders Campaign aims to expand the program with the capacity to train another 50 fellows in the next 5 years.

“I can’t think of a better way to honor and extend my father’s vision than to develop the next generation of leaders for land health and a land ethic.” –Estella Leopold, Aldo Leopold Foundation, Founder, and Honorary Campaign Chair

The Future Leaders Campaign

The Future Leaders Campaign is a holistic effort to expand the fellowship program, provide the needed facilities, and create a sustainable future for the program. The $5 million campaign will:

  • Build a new facility to house and support the fellows.
  • Provide resources to fund additional fellowships, expand program coordination, and enhance its scope.
  • Establish an endowment fund to sustain the program into the future.

Thanks to the generous support of many, a total of $3.6 million has already been raised! The project really took life when lead donors Herb Paaren and Denise Marino stepped forward with a $1 million pledge. “We believe in this program and want to help it continue into the future,” shared the couple. With an early base of support, the new Future Leaders Center is already under construction. It will provide housing for up to ten fellows, extend the capacity of the existing Leopold Center with additional meeting spaces, and will include a greenhouse to cultivate conservation practices year round.

Future Leaders Center

Future Leaders Center

Future fellows will have a comfortable “green” home in Leopold Country. The program promises to be a life-enriching opportunity to live from the land, apply hands-on knowledge in the field, and develop leadership skills – all while being connected to the landscape that inspired Leopold’s essays from A Sand County Almanac.

“Living on the Leopold Foundation land allowed me to deepen my relationship with the land. This program encourages a ‘working’ land ethic, as well as a ‘lifestyle’ land ethic.” –Cameron Bushong, 2013 Fellow

The Need

With the changing demographics, a significant loss of leadership as Baby Boomers retire, and a population increasingly disconnected from the land, the need for a new generation of diverse conservation leaders is great. The Aldo Leopold Foundation is committed to seeing the legacy of Aldo Leopold continue to build leaders in conservation. With the expansion of the Future Leaders program, an increasing number of fellows will be prepared to enter careers to tackle our most pressing conservation challenges.

Be Part of our Thinking Community

“Nothing so important as an ethic is ever written… It evolves in the minds of a thinking community.” –Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic”

Leopold invited all of us to participate in the building of a land ethic. An opportunity awaits as the Future Leaders Campaign needs the involvement of people just like you to help bring an expansion of the program to life. Your support is critical to ensuring a capable, diverse leadership in conservation is cultivated through the legacy of Aldo Leopold. To make a donation today online, click here.

More information about the campaign can be found here. And, if you have questions or would like to schedule a meeting, please reach out to Matt Schoeffler.