What is Aldo Leopold’s Legacy?

As dusk enveloped us, Sandhill Cranes winged over in groups of three or four, heading for their overnight roosting sites. We were at the Aldo Leopold Foundation near Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Conservation philosophers often cite three authors who framed the modern environmental movement. Perhaps Thoreau’s WALDEN is most famous. Somewhat later, John Muir penned the value of wilderness and national parks. More recently Aldo Leopold’s 1949 book, A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC, articulated society’s need to embrace a land ethic.

Extinction of Species

During Leopold’s life waterfowl, Passenger Pigeons, Sandhill Cranes, and many other birds declined in number under widespread habitat destruction and market hunting. The pigeon became extinct, and Leopold believed Sandhill Cranes would soon follow.

Happily, thanks to protection, education, and habitat improvement thousands of cranes now gather each fall near the Leopold Center on their way south. We had the good fortune to spot and hear many.

Foundation of Personal and Professional Life

In the winter of 1971 Rich worked as an elementary school custodian. “If I hustled and got the restrooms cleaned and the halls swept, I could take a short break in the janitor’s closet. There, surrounded by mops and brooms I read WALDEN and SAND COUNTY.  They framed my personal and professional life,” he said.

Leopold was one of the first scientists to encourage making degraded land healthier through ecological restoration. His words inspired us to devote 40 years restoring prairies in Kansas and Iowa. Our Winding Pathways yard of waving wildflowers and tall grasses are a living tribute to Aldo and Estella Leopold.

A Walk into the Past Connects Us to the Present

Recently, Leopold Foundation Fellow Eudora Miao led us down a narrow path between tall pines to a former chicken house. In the 1930s the Leopold Family converted it to  their weekend getaway cabin and called it simply, “The Shack.” Starting in 1935 they planted thousands of pines and acres of prairie on their eroded and barren land. It was here that Aldo penned words that have inspired people for the past 70 years.

The Foundation strives to inspire an ethical relationship between people and nature through Leopold’s legacy.  

 We were thrilled to visit the Foundation, tour their amazingly energy-efficient headquarters, visit The Shack, and interact with staff. Put SAND COUNTY ALMANAC on your reading list and visit the Foundation. It’s about ten miles from downtown Baraboo, Wisconsin, and about an hour’s drive north of Madison.

For information visit The Aldo Leopold Foundation

Photos (mn) by Mark Norlander.

The Legacy of Baraboo

Iowans share history with Baraboo, Wisconsin. Two famous families began their lives and careers in Iowa and landed in Baraboo. This fall we toured the charming town of Baraboo, took in Circus World, and basked in the glow of the Leopold Center’s work on sustainability.  Read about Baraboo and plan your own adventure in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Why Was Iowa The “Lumber King of the World?”

Tenting in Iowa's forests.

Enjoying Iowa’s forests.

Iowa is one of the states with the fewest trees, yet in the late 1800s we were the Lumber Kings of the World!  And,

tree rings

Notice the tree rings on this wide board from New Hampshire

Clinton, Iowa’s minor league baseball team proudly retains that name – Lumber Kings!  Why?  Read The Green Gazette (9-29-2019, Living L-09 and 10) to learn about Iowa’s forest industry, where you can camp today in quiet forests and how lumbering put Clinton, Iowa, on the map.

What Would You Do on Your First Time Alaska Adventures?

Guest Blogger Paula Lelansky

My husband and I recently returned from an Alaskan vacation.   This is a beautiful place to add to your bucket list! One of the first things I noticed was the clean, fresh air, and then the seemingly unspoiled beauty of Alaska! No matter where we were – in town, the forest or at Denali. The views were breathtaking.  Traveling through Denali National Park, we were able to see that “the mountain was out.” This is the locals’ term for being able to see Mt. Denali in all its splendor without cloud cover.

Traveling the White Pass trail to the Summit, blazed by workers in the late 1800s, we marveled at the harsh conditions with which they must have dealt.  Taking a kayak paddle near Hoonah, we watched a humpback whale right in front of us – spouting and breaching!  We were saddened at seeing the devastation caused by the McKinley wildfire – one of three throughout Alaska this summer.

Sailing near Hubbard Glacier, with its beautiful hues of green and blue, we watched as it “calved” – a chunk of the Glacier falling off.  Visiting at a dog sled camp and holding the puppies lifted our spirits!  Taking a hike through the Tongass National Rainforest, the serene beauty took my breath away.  We were enveloped by so much beautiful plant life in the forest. Fireweed, Devils Club and Horsetail, both with medicinal benefits, were abundant. Many different types of mosses, beautiful old towering hemlock and spruce trees, and muskegs (bogs) enchanted us.  At a river, a black bear was attempting to catch salmon.  After failing, she and her cub decided to follow the river downstream.

The experiences we had in Alaska will always stay with us. I’m ready to go back and spend more time exploring!

A mention about climate change.  Due to the extremes in Alaska, climate change is most noticeable there. Glaciers and permafrost are melting rapidly. Hotter temperatures carry into the autumn. Unfortunately, logging in some areas is being considered. A warning to us all to be more mindful of how we live and use resources.

Driftless Area

Woman Sunset

Capturing the sunset.

Iowa may be the flyover region of the country and people are missing out on grand adventures, pastoral scenes and tasty home-cooked meals. Come along with us as we explore the Driftless Area of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.  This invitation especially includes the Presidential Candidates! Get out and see our country! Read about our adventures in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.