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The Essential Aldo Leopold

Quotations and Commentaries

Edited by Curt D. Meine and Richard L. Knight

Publication Year: 1999

    For the first time, the most important quotations of the great conservationist Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, are gathered in one volume. From conservation education to wildlife ecology, from wilderness protection to soil and water conservation, the writings of Aldo Leopold continue to have profound influence on those seeking to understand the earth and its care. Leopold biographer Curt Meine and noted conservation biologist Richard Knight have assembled this comprehensive collection of quotations from Leopold’s extensive and diverse writings, selected and organized to capture the richness and depth of the North American conservation movement.
    Prominent biologists, conservationists, historians, and philosophers provide introductory commentaries describing Leopold’s contributions in varied fields and reflecting upon the significance of his work today.

J. Baird Callicott
David Ehrenfeld
Susan L. Flader
Eric T. Freyfogle
Wes Jackson
Paul W. Johnson
Joni L. Kinsey
Richard L. Knight
Gary K. Meffe
Curt Meine
Gary Paul Nabhan
Richard Nelson
Bryan G. Norton
David W. Orr
Edwin P. Pister
Donald Snow
Stanley A. Temple
Jack Ward Thomas
Charles Wilkinson
Terry Tempest Williams
Donald Worster
Joy B. Zedler

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xiii

As I look out the sealed window of the Environmental and Natural Resource Science Building where I work, I can see the middle-aged students who are taking the short course in Global Positioning System Training and Certification. They are pacing slowly and solemnly about...

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pp. xiv-xix

In the autumn of 1949 a modest collection of essays on natural history and conservation appeared under the unassuming title A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. Its author, AIdo Leopold, was a highly respected figure within conservation circles, having...

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Editors' Note

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pp. xx-xxi

We have arranged the quotations in each chapter of this volume in as close to chronological order as can be determined from the bibliographic and archival records. A list of sources, in the order of their original publication, is at the end of the volume. A comprehensive chronological...


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pp. xxii

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Part I: Conservation Science and Practice

Aldo Leopold saw conservation whole. He was keenly aware of the modern tendency to partition knowledge, interests, and landscapes, and understood well the consequences. He, by contrast, was an instinctive synthesizer, seeking out continuities and establishing connections within conservation. ...

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1. Forest Ecology and Management: Axe-in-Hand

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pp. 3-19

AIdo Leopold began his career as a forester. He entered Yale University in 1905, intent on a career in the newly established U.S. Forest Service, and upon graduation with his master's degree in forestry in 1909 was assigned to map and cruise timber in the Arizona Territory. ...

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2. Range Ecology and Management: Open Thinking on the Range

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pp. 20-31

In these quotations Aldo Leopold speaks to us from what might seem like a remote past. Yet, decades later, most of his words remain applicable. Little seems to have changed in the intervening years. We can recognize the same political realities, the same socioeconomic...

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3. Outdoor Recreation: Leopold and the "Still Unlovely Mind"

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pp. 32-44

AIdo Leopold was a lifelong recreationist. Whether fishing, hunting with gun or bow, birdwatching, canoeing, or exploring wild lands on foot or horseback, Leopold sought out recreational opportunities on open lands. These activities in turn fed his commitment to conservation. ...

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4. Wildlife Ecology and Management: Building the Foundations of Wildlife Conservation

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pp. 45-71

Aldo Leopold's life and writings span the era when both ecology and wildlife management were establishing themselves as legitimate scientific undertakings. The fledgling discipline of ecology was struggling to convince the rest of the scientific world that it was more than just a new name...

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5. Soil and Water Conservation: Traveling in the Right Direction

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pp. 72-86

The need to conserve soil and water seems obvious today. It was not always so. When Aldo Leopold began his conservation career with the U.S. Forest Service, our nation was on a destructive rampage. Forests and croplands were thought to exist in limitless supply. ...

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6. Agriculture: Preparing for a Sustainable Agriculture

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pp. 87-98

More times than I can count, and for more years than I can remember, I have (with countless others I'm sure) had to handle with forced composure the question: "Who is this man AIdo Leopold you keep talking about?" The question comes in various forms, of course, but parsed...

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7. Wilderness: A Place of Humility

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pp. 99-115

A Sand County Almanac changed my life. It is the only book that I can remember where and when I read it for the first time: Dinosaur National Monument, June 1974. My mother and grandmother were talking comfortably in their lawn chairs, my brothers were playing on the banks...

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8. Ecological Restoration: The Continuing Challenge of Restoration

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pp. 116-126

Aldo Leopold was practicing ecological restoration long before the term was invented.
He spoke in his day of "reconstruction," "restocking," and "rebuilding," of "doctoring sick land." He wielded simple tools: an educated eye and a shovel. He and his family, his friends, and...

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9. Biodiversity and Conservation Biology: Standing on Solid Shoulders

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pp. 127-151

Only recently has the discipline of conservation biology come forward as a new and challenging force in conservation. It emerged in the dosing decades of the twentieth century, largely through the efforts of a growing number of ecologists, population geneticists, and others who realized...

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Part II: Conservation Policy

Conservation, as AIdo Leopold understood it, was a matter not just of technical skill, but of social development, which in turn was a matter of changing mores, customs, laws, incentives, and community standards. Unlike many biologists and conservationists, Leopold was not...

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10. Private Land: Aldo Leopold on Private Land

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pp. 155-167

In the world AIdo Leopold grew up in—Burlington, Iowa, at the turn of the twentieth century—private land ownership held an honored place, right alongside free enterprise, individualism, personal honor, and the family. Leopold shaped his being around these values...

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11. Public Land: Aldo Leopold on Public Land

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pp. 168-177

The federal public lands have been the crucible for American conservation policy ever since the creation of Yellowstone as the world's first national park in 1872. At the beginning of the twentieth century Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot took natural resources issues to center...

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12. Advocacy: Throwing Your Weight Around

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pp. 178-189

If not for AIdo Leopold, I likely would not have become a conservation advocate. Mter reading "The Land Ethic," first as a student in A. Starker Leopold's Wildlife Conservation class at the University of California at Berkeley, then again at a critical stage of my career several years...

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13. Economics: Do Economists Know About Lupines?

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pp. 190-200

The Thoreauvian philosopher who dwelt within the breast of AIdo Leopold composed these lines in the early summer of 1946: "Sometimes in June, when I see unearned dividends of dew hung on every lupine, I have doubts about the real poverty of the sands. On solvent farmlands lupines...

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14. Environmental Policy: Leopold as Practical Moralist and Pragmatic Policy Analyst

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pp. 201-219

Aldo Leopold's ideas and pronouncements on environmental policy, read fifty years after his death, establish how far Leopold was ahead of his—and our own—time. The ideas expressed in these quotations draw upon his experience with a broad spectrum of conservation issues. ...

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Part III: Conservation and Culture

"That land yields a cultural harvest," Leopold wrote in his foreword to A Sand County Almanac, "is a fact long known, but latterly often forgotten."1 Leopold never forgot. Throughout his career as a professional in conservation, he retained his ability to step back...

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15. Hunting and Fishing: Hunting for Common Ground

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pp. 223-236

AIdo Leopold, November 15, 1927: "Just short of the top I suddenly saw a large buck in a pine thicket about 50 yards up the hill, looking me over. I moved to avoid a bush, drew to the barb at point blank, and let fly. The unmistakable thud of the arrow striking flesh told me I had hit."1 ...

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16. Environmental History: Leopold and the Changing Landscape of History

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pp. 237-254

The landscape through which Aida Leopold walked was deeply historical, filled with intimations of the past. In the Southwest, Wisconsin, or Iowa, the places he knew best, he looked for evidence of change, usually finding—though not always—a pattern of degradation. ...

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17. Education: What Is Education For?

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pp. 255-268

Aldo Leopold was a man for all seasons: naturalist, scientist, philosopher, public citizen, conservationist, family man, and writer, but in his later years he earned his keep as a professor. By all accounts Leopold was an extraordinarily effective teacher, but he is not commonly...

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18. Arts and Sciences: Between Imagination and Observation

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pp. 269-278

Within an hour of watching the mating "sky dance" of the woodcock for the very first time, I leaned back against an oak trunk near the Illinois-Wisconsin border and read Leopold's essay about this very same avian ritual.1 And I was astonished. ...

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19. Land Esthetics: Through Successive Stages of the Beautiful

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pp. 279-295

The land ethic was, in many ways, Aldo Leopold's crowning achievement. Although it proposes a radical reconception of traditional relationships, the ethic is based on a remarkably simple premise: that humans are members of the land community who must respect the existence...

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20. Land Ethics: Into Terra Incognita

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pp. 296-313

A new subdiscipline in philosophy called "environmental ethics" made its debut in the early 1970s in response to the realization, dawning over us in the previous decade, that the natural environment was in a state of crisis. I seem to have offered the first course in the subject at the...

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21. Leopold's Voice: The Reach of Words

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pp. 314-330

In September 1936 AIdo Leopold and a friend, Ray Roark, journeyed from Wisconsin to the Mexican state of Chihuahua for a two-week bow hunt in the Sierra Madre Occidental. This was, for Leopold, a return to the semiarid mountain landscapes where as a young forester he first...


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pp. 333-342

Quotation Sources

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pp. 343-356

Contributors [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 357-362

E-ISBN-13: 9780299165536
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299165505

Publication Year: 1999