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.
By Adam Nyhus
Grade 10, Almena
It seems to me that the number one priority that people think about around the holidays is presents. This is a materialistic concept, however, there are some exceptions. I know of someone who both supports the Christmas season and is a citizen of the land. My neighbor, Joe Clark, is a proud owner of a Christmas tree farm. Joe makes sure there is no waste in how he runs his farm. Through his methods of running the farm, he shows passion and a stewardship of land ethic.
Joe loves logging and taking care of the forest. Aldo Leopold’s essay “The Land Ethic,” he says, “Land-use ethics are still governed wholly by economic self-interest, just as social ethics were a century ago.” Perhaps that describes our society, but it certainly doesn’t describe Joe. Joe spends many hours in the woods looking for trees that are crowding on others. When he sees signs of death, he removes them from the property which brings more life to the land. He clears out the worthless brush and leaves the young pines and hardwoods. If a tree is encroaching upon others, and he is forced to remove it, he cuts the tree into boards at his sawmill. Joe uses the boards himself or sells them to customers. He burns the scrap wood from the mill in his wood boiler to heat his house which still provides no waste. This proves that Joe Clark is a citizen of the land, not a conqueror.
Joe and his wife, Sue, are the founders of the Snowshoe Valley Christmas Tree Farm. According to Leopold, “If the private owner were ecologically minded, he would be proud to be the custodian of a reasonable proportion of such areas, which adds diversity and beauty to his farm and to his community,” just as Joe and Sue are. Joe shears the trees so that they are the “perfect Christmas tree shape,” and he plucks all of the new pine cones off of every tree each year helping to contribute to the beauty of his community.
Joe needs to keep the fields updated by constantly replanting. Joe’s organization and planning for the future are crucial to his operation. If not, the trees wouldn’t be the standard size to dispatch, and he would not have any more fields for tree harvesting. During the Christmas season, Joe provides not just the beautiful trees for his customers, but wagon rides, ornament hunts for the children, and an adventurous trail loop. In my opinion, Snowshoe Valley Christmas Tree Farm is the most scenic tree farm around and is a real asset to the community.
Joe has an amazing passion and level of respect for the land. I believe that running a tree farm and owning a sawmill should fit under Aldo Leopold’s and Joe’s vision. Joe is an excellent conservationist and role model. I don’t know anybody that shows more of a love for the land and passion for its conservation than he.
Adam Nyhus is from Almena, Wisconsin. He wrote this essay during his sophomore year at Cumberland High School. In his free time, Adam enjoys woodworking and furniture building. He will be entering his junior year this fall.
Feature photo, top, Tree hunting, courtesy of David Whelan / CC BY 1.0
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!
- A Lesson in Balance
- The Land Ethic Ideal
- My Father’s Land Ethic
- The Voice of the Maples
- At the Crossroad of Leopold Lane and Conservation Trail