Aldo Leopold


Aldo Leopold is the next important thinker about wilderness.  He brought in both science and ethics.
Leapold's "shack" in Wisconsin
Leopold's "shack" in the sand country of Wisconsin
Leopold started out as a forester, trained in managing timber but interested in game management
He came to an increasing interest in wilderness and ecology
Greatest Good ch. 17 (part 2 ch. 5)

(watch out--so far we have been talking about how different people have different ideas of wilderness, but in this case we can't ignore how one person's ideas changed over the course of his life)

Aldo Leopold
Aldo LeopoldLeopold was trained in forestry at Yale and went to work for the Forest Service in the southwest in 1909

He developed the field of game management--how to manage hunting and stop poaching to maintain population of animals for hunters to hunt--looked at game as a crop

1. he tells the story of killing the mother wolf and seeing the green fire die
2. also reduced number of predators meant increased numbers of grazing animals led to erosion problems

By 1919 he was thinking not just about game but about wilderness
there isn't yet land set aside as wilderness strictly defined
--The National Parks had hotels and roads
--The Forest Service harvested timber, though only as much as grew

Meanwhile the Forest Service, not wanting to be outdone by the new Park Service, was thinking about managing National Forests for recreation, not just for timber production

Multiple use: forests can be used for timber production, watersheds, and recreation at the same time

Leopold wrote an article in the Journal of Forestry in 1921 calling for designated wilderness areas and defining wilderness as "a continuous stretch of country preserved in its natural state, open to lawful hunting and fishing, big enough to absorb a two weeks' pack trip, and kept devoid of roads, artificial trails, cottages, or other works of man."
mules with packs
loaded mules on a pack trip
Gila Wilderness
gila wildernessIn 1924, 574,000 acres of the Gila National Forest in New Mexico were designated for wilderness recreation

In 1929 the Forest Service approved an official policy for preserving wilderness areas

After that Leopold took a job as assistant director of the Forest Service's Forest Products Laboratory and began to think about how to justify wilderness

Like Thoreau he wanted a balance between wilderness and civilization

He argued that what makes American culture unique is: "a certain vigorous individualism combined with ability to organize, a certain intellectual curiosity bent to practical ends, a lack of subservience to stiff social forms, and an intolerance of drones, all of which are distinctive characteristics of successful pioneers."  With the frontier gone we need to save wilderness areas where these characteristics can be cultivated.

Leopold moved on to be a professor at the University of Wisconsin, and there his thinking changed further
The Land Ethic:


cover of A Sand
            Country Almanac


This page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
last updated 3/3/10
Hist 124