On a recent, lovely July afternoon, Jean Mansavage and husband Blair Semple were inducted into the Good Oak Society at the Leopold Shack, as the culmination of a behind-the-scenes tour—guided by executive director Buddy Huffaker—of the Legacy Center, the Leopold-Pines Conservation Preserve, and the Shack itself.
We were inspired by these individuals’ passion and dedication to a land ethic and the ongoing work of this foundation. Normally, we would compose a few paragraphs to introduce Jean and Blair to the thinking community, but Jean’s own words tell the story much better than we could ever hope to:
I first read A Sand County Almanac in an undergraduate environmental history class at Texas A&M (1987), and immediately suffered a serious bout of homesickness for my native Wisconsin. Decades later, in 2006, I read Curt Meine’s biography of Leopold, Aldo Leopold, His Life and Work—something just clicked for me and I began a career shift from military to environmental history while working for the Defense Department in Washington, D.C. Also in 2006, I made my first trip to the Shack (see below picture with my mom), which cemented my desire to find a way to help others gain a greater appreciation for the Sand Counties when I retire back to central Wisconsin.
Over the last decade I took part in the inaugural Land Ethic Leader training at the ALF Headquarters (2010) and took part in a Leopold Education Project session (2017). I applied what I learned in both of those programs to a course I began teaching (U.S. Conservation History) for the Audubon Naturalist Society in D.C. In that class I provide my students a short biographical presentation about Leopold; we read and discuss the Almanac; play a game of Sand County Jeopardy (with prizes); and also offer a screening of Green Fire for a local audience and hold a discussion afterward.
In addition to bringing a greater sense of purpose to my paid work, learning about Leopold and expanding my personal Land Ethic has also provided me a tangible roadmap for a rewarding retirement career when I return to central Wisconsin. One way for me to repay Leopold’s many gifts is to provide the Aldo Leopold Foundation with a portion of my trust. This isn’t just part of my legacy, but also a small way of paying tribute to my parents, Lois and Emil Mansavage, who instilled in me a deep love of nature and an understanding that “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Indeed—although we never expect such generosity, but we know the future of conservation and a land ethic will thrive all the more thanks to this legacy gift from Jean and Blair!
Thank you both from the heart of the sand counties!
Learn more about the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s legacy giving options