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Featured Article | Fall 2017: Sense of Place

Special Places and Special People

By Buddy Huffaker

“As we transformed the land, it transformed us. This must be how a sense of place is nurtured.” -Nina Leopold Bradley, “A Sense of Place”

I was unprepared for how personal this issue would be as I sat down to compose my introduction. Nina Leopold Bradley, Kathleen Dean Moore, Michael Howard, Stan Temple, Jen Kobylecky, Joel Krueger, Tom Boldt, Mike Utzinger, Estella Leopold, Andy Fieber, Steve Swenson, and Mary Yeakel all give voice to this edition, and all have given to me more knowledge, inspiration, and support than I can adequately express.

Remembering Nina

Over twenty years ago, I traveled to Baraboo to interview with Charlie Bradley and Nina Leopold Bradley for a seasonal position with the Aldo Leopold Foundation. I don’t think any of us realized what was being set in motion, but I do remember thinking how I didn’t want that lunch to ever end. Within months, I was working out of their basement, trying to decide whether the bigger honor was stewarding the prairies Nina had planted decades earlier or eating her homemade soup for lunch each day.

Anyone who ever met Nina will remember her energy, passion, grace, wit, patience, and persistence. These ingredients and more made her one of the most eloquent voices for the power of connecting people and land. It is with honor and awe we remember, 100 years after her birth, all that Nina shared with, and through, the foundation by sharing her essay “A Sense of Place.”

Nina Leopold Bradley tracking phenology

Nina Leopold Bradley got outside every day to note phenological changes.

Also In This Issue

Kathleen Dean Moore was one of Nina’s favorite writers and one of her favorite people. Kathleen builds on Nina’s sense of place by telling her family’s connection to their special place. In a different context, but with as much power and inspiration, we turn to Michael and Amelia Howard and how their love for people and place has shaped their community.

Leopold’s “Wherefore Wildlife Ecology?” is one of my personal favorites, and after reading it alongside Nina’s essay, it becomes evident how Nina’s love of land emerged. She had a passion for and a commitment to collecting, analyzing, and interpreting phenological data – a practice her father started in the 1930s. I was lucky to assist in this work, and as a result, Dr. Stan Temple was considering me as a Ph.D. student. However, life presented another path, and I accepted the role of executive director for the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Thankfully, as you will read in “Keeping Track of Nature’s Almanac,” Stan continues to analyze and interpret the ongoing phenological studies to ensure the Leopold Data Set informs the scientific community.

I passed up the opportunity with Stan because I knew another major opportunity was on the horizon – The Aldo Leopold Legacy Center. It was Nina’s vision to create permanence for the foundation and translate a land ethic for the 21st century. Once again her energy, passion, and drive served as a gravitational force that brought together the financial and human capacity to make a truly special place. The Leopold Atlas shares some of the many perspectives that contributed to making the center in commemoration of its tenth anniversary.

Leopold Center in Fall 2017

The Leopold Center in Fall 2017, during its tenth year of operation.

In the Backyard Almanac, Cassie Mordini and Jen Kobylecky provide some background on the whitetail deer, a central species in Leopold’s life. In fact, his biographers cite the stress of the 1940s “Deer Wars” in Wisconsin, when Leopold was criticized for advocating a more committed approach to managing deer populations, as likely being a factor in his early death. You’ll also see a sneak peek of a new publication by the foundation, Why Hunt? A Guide for Lovers of Nature, Local Food, and Outdoor Recreation, building on the fundamental role hunting played in Leopold’s own life which eventually led him to establish the field of wildlife management.

The issue begins with a special woman, Nina, and closes with another, Mary Yeakel. A powerhouse for conservation in her own right, Mary was nicknamed the “prairie godmother.” I have fond memories of Mary advancing conservation efforts in the region using her powerful presence to coalesce people to toward a land ethic.

Perhaps my walk down memory lane will bring forth memories and feelings many of you have about these same individuals or appreciation of others in your life that have inspired your own love of the land. I can hear Nina say “this must be how a sense of place is nurtured.”

Feature photo, top, courtesy of Jeannine Richards.

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