Living a Land Ethic

In 1935, in the midst of relentless drought, Aldo Leopold purchased an abandoned farm along the Wisconsin River near Baraboo, Wisconsin. An old chicken coop, later to become famous as the Leopold “Shack,” was the property’s only intact structure. The Leopold family embraced this spent farm as a new kind of laboratory—a place to experiment on restoring health to an ailing piece of land. Here, Leopold found inspiration for writing A Sand County Almanac, his influential book of essays on conservation and ethics.

Living a Land Ethic chronicles the formation of the 1,600-acre reserve surrounding the Shack. When the Leopold Memorial Reserve was founded in 1967, five neighboring families signed an innovative agreement to jointly care for their properties in ways that honored Aldo Leopold’s legacy. In the ensuing years, the Reserve’s Coleman and Leopold families formed the Sand County Foundation and the Aldo Leopold Foundation. These organizations have been the primary stewards of the Reserve, carrying on a tradition of ecological restoration and cooperative conservation. Author Stephen A. Laubach draws from the archives of both foundations, including articles of incorporation, correspondence, photos, managers’ notes, and interviews to share with readers the Reserve’s untold history and its important place in the American conservation movement.

Stephen A. Laubach is the Director of Sustainability and a member of the science department at The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. He teaches courses and leads campus initiatives in sustainability, environmental science, and biology. He has a PhD in environmental studies and science education.

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