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Leopold Week  •  Programs and Events

The Aldo Leopold Foundation will be closed to the public for a private event on Saturday, September 30.

Richard Rubin at Mi Casita

Protecting Leopold’s Legacy in New Mexico

Richard Rubin works to protect and promote Leopold’s legacy in New Mexico. With numerous local programs and tours, Richard writes that there is a diverse interest in a Mi Casita experience (the house Aldo built for Estella Sr. outside of Taos, NM on the Carson National Forest). There is also interest in a gradual house restoration project. Tour groups include Oklahoma State and most recently a speaking event For the Unitarian Congregation of Taos Fifth Sunday Program on July 30.

During the event in July, Richard Rubin spoke on “Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic” describing Aldo and Estella Leopold’s origins and years in New Mexico as Supervisor of the Carson National Forest and daughter of a founding family. These years inspired the beginning of Aldo Leopold’s pioneering conservation insights and achievements. Dr. Rubin discussed current practices of Leopold’s land ethic in Taos.

Read Richard and Annette’s 2022 book Living the Leopolds’ Mi Casita Ecology.

You can read more from Richard below.

A Leopoldian Op-ed: Fascinated by the birds in our backyard

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Taos News My Turn, March 2023.  

For several years, a pair of doves has made our Arroyo Seco home habitat their own. Annette and I greatly appreciate their relationship with us, so I am moved to explore deeper understanding. As an old doctor, I also like sharing a My Turn prescription to enhance life in Taos. The idea of human community with all life, including the land, has become more important for environmental health. Beginning with experiences as a young forester in Arizona and New Mexico, Aldo Leopold’s practices evolved to recognize that “we abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us; when we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to share it with love and respect.”  Two methods directed his actions and teaching: first, advancing the science of Ecology which is devoted to studying the relationships among living things; and second, applying the practice of Phenology to observe and record the timing of seasonal events in nature, including phenomena such as seed dispersal, plants blooming, wildlife movements, birds nesting, and weather changes. These attitudes require profound attention to our environment, inspired traditionally in New Mexico by Native values and Norteno querencia. And I add influence from Frank Waters’ writings and his contribution establishing the first conservation easement in the Taos Land Trust.

While Annette and I have dozens of bird species living in and passing through our Arroyo Seco homescape, why are these doves so engaging of our attention? First, they appear almost always together, having mated for life. Even when not perched together on the latilla fence, one is not far from the other. Their size and light coloring are eye catching. They tend to fly low in our visual range, often feeding on the ground in our garden patches. They also display themselves in regular ways, such as catching morning sun perched on our milpa entrance pergola. The historic human tradition of naming, as recorded in the Bible’s creation story, sends me to the dictionaries. Professor Ruben Cobos translates palomita as turtledove. This is a European species whose qualities have been applied to a gentle, loving person. Biblical symbolism for two turtledoves represents the Old and New Testaments. That is their meaning in the Christmas song. A village in Southern New Mexico was named Las Palomas after the nearby remedial natural springs. Many cultures have assigned special ceremonies to the birds, often for protection or peace. These range among worldwide Indigenous tribes, ancient Hebrews in Noah’s flood story, Aphrodite in Greek mythology, in Islam helping Muhammed, and in the baptism of Jesus. Modern practices include release at Olympic games and Papal coronations. And we remember the iconic Woodstock poster, perched on the guitar handle.

Our home companions are native Mourning doves, Zenaida macroura. The name has been assigned from their haunting, sad song. The word dove derives from Old English and Norse languages. While they breed for life, ornithologists have not identified mourning behavior at a partner loss, but now scholars are appreciating more the complex emotional life of other creatures. When our house was finished in 1993, I planted two ponderosa pines on the west side. These trees are now forty feet tall and thirty feet wide. The doves use both for their brood nests, usually two a year. I can tell the favorite locations from guano collections below. In Spring, we see the male alone collecting materials for his mate’s nest building. They are said to be great parents, sharing the egg incubation and production of food for chicks from their digestive crops. Later, fledglings add more guano, and eventually each squab appears out, perching around our yard with the parents. Various seeds are their only food, so we are happy to keep the feeders filled year-round, as well as planting sunflowers and sharing our milpa corn. Ornithologists say they are very intelligent as well as loving and peaceful. These birds must have hardy and resilient qualities also, as they persist living here despite our recent wildfires and climate changes. That seems to say we are sharing healthy community relationships.

Read “Honoring the Gila Wilderness” by Richard Rubin

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