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At the Crossroad of Leopold Lane and Conservation Trail

Through his writing, Aldo Leopold left a legacy of conservation knowledge and philosophy to inspire future generations. In its second year, the Wisconsin Aldo Leopold Writing Contest has challenged high school students to study a selection of Leopold’s writings and respond to a related question or writing prompt. This year students were invited to read Aldo Leopold’s “Land Ethic” essay from A Sand County Almanac and tell the story of a local leader who exemplifies Leopold’s land ethic.

In partnership with the Aldo Leopold Nature Center and sponsors, Cedar Lakes Conservation Foundation and CTI Meeting Technology, we are pleased to share with you the 2017 winning essays in a series of posts here on the Building a Land Ethic blog.


At the Crossroad of Leopold Lane and Conservation Trail

By Rose Adler-Rephan
Grade 11, Conserve School

“If one is to find love, peace, and happiness, one must be able to understand the great cathedral of the outdoors.” -James Lowenstine

“A land ethic then reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of land.” -Aldo Leopold

Even as a child James Lowenstine was devoted to the natural world. He lived on a large estate in the North Woods of Wisconsin, was deeply interested in natural history and loved animals. His pet cat led him to develop a great respect for all animals at a young age. Lowenstine loved playing in the outdoors. He frequently went skiing, sledding, swimming, and camping with his Boy Scout Troop. As an adult Lowenstine was an exceptional game hunter; however, his love and respect for animals never wavered. Lowenstine religiously followed the rules and regulations of hunting. Much like Aldo Leopold, James Lowenstine saw the importance of incorporating nature into his community and treating nature as a community member, with respect and care. Lowenstine’s compassion for and devotion to the land was the epitome of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic.

Aldo Leopold envisioned a new relationship between humans and nature, advocating for conservation and respect. He integrated the land into the human community, treating the two as equals. James Lowenstine envisioned the same relationship; he lived out Aldo Leopold’s land ethic by creating a mutual community between land and people. Upon his death, Lowenstine donated all 1,200 acres of his property in the North Woods of Wisconsin to fund the creation of Conserve School for environmental and conservation education.

James Lowenstine at his Lowenwood home.

Lowenstine at this Lowenwood home in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Conserve School.

Lowenstine aspired to deepen dedicated students’ love for nature and their drive for conservation and to equip them with resources to become active environmental stewards in their home communities. “The program interweaves college-preparatory academics with the study of environmental history, nature literature, the science of conservation, environmental service work, exploration of careers related to conservation, training in teamwork and leadership, and engagement with the outdoors.”

Lowenstine’s goal for Conserve School was not only to create a community that followed the values of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic but also to spread its principles far and wide. Students attending Conserve School are not all expected to become professional environmental activists, but to apply their knowledge and commitment to the environment to whatever fields they enter. By building Conserve School Lowenstine ensured that future generations would develop a relationship of “obligation” to the environment rather than one of “privilege” as Aldo Leopold envisioned.

These two environmental stewards set the stage for major conservation developments. Aldo Leopold defined a new relationship with nature through his essay the Land Ethic. He was a leader with a goal, as was James Lowenstine. Aldo Leopold wrote books; James Lowenstine founded a school. Both left their legacies in the form of knowledge so that their devotion to preserving nature could live on through future generations. As a student at Conserve School, I am that future.

Rose Alder-Rephan bio pic.Rose Adler-Rephan concluded her junior year at Conserve School in Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin. She is preparing to return to Roseville Area High School for her senior year. Rose’s major passions include the environment, climbing, and backpacking, and her whole life revolves around nature. Rose spends summers working at outdoor camps, backpacking, canoeing, and climbing outdoors. 


Explore the rest of the winning essays!

Links will become available for the other winning essays as they are published to the blog. Check back throughout the summer!