Aldo Leopold and Conservation on Privately Owned Lands

October 19, 2017, 7:00 a.m. - 8:15 p.m.
Dow Center

Distinguished Speaker – Dr. Stanley Temple

Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation, University of Wisconsin,
and Senior Fellow, Aldo Leopold Foundation

Dow Center Phillips Auditorium

Overview

Aldo Leopold, author of the famous book of essays “A Sand County Almanac” was the first professor of wildlife management at the University of Wisconsin. The “Father of Wildlife Conservation” penned this definition of the endeavor, “When the land does well for its owner, and the owner does well by his land; when both end up better by reason of their partnership, we have conservation.”

Leopold knew there were many obstacles to conservation, among them: maximizing economic returns from one’s land, exercising the privileges private property, feeling no obligation to act in the public’s interest, suffering no consequences for abusing land, and simply being unaware of how one’s activities affect land. Leopold struggled throughout his career with how to overcome such obstacles. What would it take to induce land owners to practice conservation in the face of inclinations to do otherwise? He observed: “We seem ultimately always thrown back on individual ethics as the basis of land conservation. It is hard to make a man, by pressure of law or money, do a thing which does not spring naturally from his own personal sense of right and wrong.”

This line of thinking ultimately led Leopold to his most enduring contribution: his land ethic, reflecting a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land. Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal. Conservation is our effort to understand and preserve this capacity.” Professor Temple will discuss the evolution of Leopold’s thinking and why it remains relevant today.