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Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold
Born 11 January 1887(1887-01-11)
Burlington, Iowa
Died 21 April 1948 (aged 61)
Occupation author, ecologist, forester, and environmentalist
Nationality American
Subjects Conservation, land ethic, land health, ecological conscience
Notable work(s) A Sand County Almanac
Spouse(s) Estella Leopold
Children A. Starker Leopold, Luna B. Leopold,Nina Leopold Bradley, A. Carl Leopold, Estella Leopold

Aldo Leopold (January 11, 1887 – April 21, 1948) was an American ecologist, forester, and environmentalist. He was influential in the development of modern environmental ethics and in the movement for wilderness conservation. Leopold is considered to be the father of wildlife management in the United States and was a life-long fisherman and hunter. Leopold died in 1948 from a heart attack two hours after fighting a brush fire on a neighbor's farm.[1]


Life and work

In 1933 he was appointed Professor of Game Management in the Agricultural Economics Department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He lived in a modest two-story home close to the campus with his wife and children, and he taught at the university until his death. Today, his home is an official landmark of the city of Madison. One of his sons, Luna, went on to become a noted hydrologist and geology professor at UC Berkeley. Another son, A. Starker Leopold, was a noted wildlife biologist and also a professor at UC Berkeley.[2] A third son, A. Carl Leopold, became a noted plant physiologist. [3]

His nature writing is notable for its simple directness. His portrayals of various natural environments through which he had moved, or had known for many years, displayed impressive intimacy with what exists and happens in nature. Leopold offered frank criticism of the harm he believed was frequently done to natural systems (such as land) out of a sense of a culture or society's sovereign ownership over the land base – eclipsing any sense of a community of life to which humans belong. He felt the security and prosperity resulting from "mechanization" now gives people the time to reflect on the preciousness of nature and to learn more about what happens there. However, he also writes "Theoretically, the mechanization of farming ought to cut the farmer's chains, but whether it really does is debatable." [4]


A Sand County Almanac

The book was published in 1949, shortly after Leopold's death. One of the well-known quotes from the book which clarifies his land ethic is

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise. (p.240)

The concept of a trophic cascade is put forth in the chapter "Thinking Like a Mountain", wherein Leopold realizes that killing a predator wolf carries serious implications for the rest of the ecosystem.[5]

In January of 1995 I helped carry the first grey wolf into Yellowstone, where they had been eradicated by federal predator control policy only six decades earlier. Looking through the crates into her eyes, I reflected on how Aldo Leopold once took part in that policy, then eloquently challenged it. By illuminating for us how wolves play a critical role in the whole of creation, he expressed the ethic and the laws which would reintroduce them nearly a half-century after his death.

Bruce Babbitt, former Secretary of the Interior[6]


In "The Land Ethic", a chapter of A Sand County Almanac, Leopold delves into conservation in "The Ecological Conscience" section. He wrote: "Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land." According to him, curriculum-content guidelines in the late 1940s, when he wrote boiled down to: "obey the law, vote right, join some organizations and practice what conservation is profitable on your own land; the government will do the rest."(p.243-244)


Currently the Digital Content Group of University of Wisconsin–Madison is conducting a large-scale digitization of Aldo Leopold's journals and records. They are expected to be made available online late 2009.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Errington, P.L. (1948) In Appreciation of Aldo Leopold. The Journal of Wildlife Management. 12(4) pp. 341-350
  2. ^ Raitt, RJ (1984) In Memoriam: A. Starker Leopold. Auk 101: 868-871. PDF
  3. ^ Mark Staves and Randy Wayne (2009) In Memoriam: A. Carl Leopold. Lansing Star Dec. 3, 2009. html obituary
  4. ^ Leopold, A. (1949) A Sand County Almanac (Ballantine Books ed., 1970)(p. 262)
  5. ^ Leopold, Aldo Thinking Like a Mountain
  6. ^ Aldo Leopold: A Fierce Green Fire By Marybeth Lorbiecki (Falcon Press, 1996), quote on back coverAldo Leopold: A Fierce Green Fire
  7. ^


  • Knight, Richard L. and Suzanne Riedel (ed). 2002. Aldo Leopold and the Ecological Conscience. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195149440.
  • Lorbiecki, Marybeth. 1996. Aldo Leopold: A Fierce Green Fire. Helena, Mont.: Falcon Press. ISBN 1560444789.
  • McClintock, James I. 1994. Nature's Kindred Spirits. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299141748.
  • Meine, Curt. 1988. Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299114902.
  • Newton, Julianne Lutz. 2006. Aldo Leopold's Odyssey. Washington: Island Press/Shearwater Books. ISBN 9781597260459.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Aldo Leopold (January 11, 1887 - April 21, 1948) was a United States environmentalist.



  • That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.

A Sand County Almanac (1949)

  • Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. 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 use it with love and respect. There is no other way for land to survive the impact of mechanized man, nor for us to reap from it the aesthetic harvest it is capable, under science, of contributing to culture.
    • Foreword, p. ix[1]
  • It is a matter of what a man thinks about while chopping, or while deciding what to chop.
  • There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.
    • "February: Good Oak", p. 12[1]
  • The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the pieces.
    • Unidentified chapter/page
    • Cited in Guruswamy, Lakshman D. (1998). Protection of Global Biodiversity: Converging Strategies. Duke University Press. pp. p. 258. ISBN 0822321882.  
    • Misattributed to Paul R. Ehrlich in Saturday Review, 5 June 1971, according to MacKay, Alan L. (1991). A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations. pp. p. 80. ISBN 0750301066.  
  • A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.
    • "The Land Ethic", pp. 224-225.
  • The oldest task in human history: to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.
    • Unidentified chapter/page
  • Once you learn to read the land, I have no fear of what you will do to it, or with it. And I know many pleasant things it will do to you.
    • Unidentified chapter/page
  • Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise.
    • Unidentified chapter/page
  • A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than that of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.
    • Unidentified chapter/page
  • Barring love and war, few enterprises are undertaken with such abandon, or by such diverse individuals, or with so paradoxical a mixture of appetite and altruism, as that group of avocations known as outdoor recreation. It is, by common consent, a good thing for people to get back to nature.
    • Unidentified chapter/page
  • Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers.
    • March, p18
  • What a dull world if we knew all [everything] about geese.
    • April, p20
  • Engineers did not discover insulation, they copied it from these old soldiers of the prairie war. [Bur Oak]
    • April, p27
  • He who owns a veteran Bur Oak owns more than a tree. He owns an historical library, and a reserved seat in the theatre of evolution. To the discerning eye, his farm is labeled with the badge and symbol of the prairie war.
    • April, p30
  • How like fish we are: ready, nay eager to seize upon whatever new thing some wind of circumstance shakes down upon the river of time! Even so, I think there is some virtue in eagerness, whether its object prove true or false.
    • June, p39
  • The erasure of a human subspecies is largely painless -- to us -- if we know little enough about it. A dead Chinaman is of little import to us whose awareness of things Chinese is bounded by an occasional dish of chow mein. We grieve only for what we know. The erasure of Silphium from western Dane County is no cause for grief if one knows it only as a name in a botany book.
    • July, p48
  • We classify ourselves into vocations, each of which wields some particular tool, or sells it, or repairs it, or sharpens it, or dispenses advice on how to do so; by such division of labors we avoid responsibility for the misuse of any tool save our own. But there is one vocation--philosophy--which knows that all men, by what they think about and wish for, in effect wield all tools. It knows that men thus determine, by their manner of thinking and wishing, whether it is worthwhile to wield any.
    • November, p68
  • A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke [of the axe] he is writing his signature on the face of the land.
    • November, p68
  • The modern dogma is comfort at any cost.
    • November, p.71
  • The problem, then, is how to bring about a striving for harmony with land among a people many of whom have forgotten there is any such thing as land, among whom education and culture have become almost synonymous with landlessness. This is the problem of conservation education.

Round River (1953)

  • The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.
    • Unidentified chapter/page


  • Leopold, Aldo (1949). Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There (1st edition ed.). New York: Oxford Unversity Press.  
  1. a b Leopold, Aldo (1977) [1949]. A Sand County Almanac Illustrated. Tamarack Press. pp. 152 pp.. ISBN 0-915024-15-2.  

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