Partner Spotlight: Aldo Leopold Foundation
About Aldo Leopold
Aldo Leopold is one of our nation’s most beloved naturalists and authors. Considered by many as the father of wildlife management and of the United States’ wilderness system, Aldo Leopold was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast. Leopold is best known as the author of A Sand County Almanac, a book inspired by his experience restoring a worn-out Sauk County farm on the Wisconsin River. It was published in 1949 and since then has sold over two million copies in twelve languages—it is one of the most respected books about the environment ever published. Leopold has come to be regarded by many as one of the most influential conservation thinkers of the twentieth century, and his legacy continues to inform and inspire us to see the natural world “as a community to which we belong.”
The Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm
Leopold purchased a worn-out, abandoned farm along the Wisconsin River in the impoverished sand country of central Wisconsin.
in 1935. The farmhouse had burned to the ground, and the only viable structure on the site was a chicken coop, which the family refashioned into a weekend retreat that they called ‘the shack.’ Here Leopold and his family initiated one of the nation’s earliest experiments in ecological restoration, planting thousands of pines and other trees, restoring prairies and wetlands, and observing and meticulously documenting the ensuing changes in the flora and fauna. It was this experience that inspired many of the essays in A Sand County Almanac. The book articulated Leopold’s call for a “Land Ethic,” a moral obligation for humans to extend their definition of community to include the land—including the water, soil, plants, and animals that support all life. One of the planned interpretive themes for the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway corridor will focus on Wisconsin’s conservation legacy, which makes the Aldo Leopold Foundation an ideal partner on the project. The Shack site will serve as a portal for visitors to the parkway to learn more about the deep roots of conservation in Wisconsin.
In 1978 the Aldo Leopold Shack was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The designation applied to not only the structure, but also to the surrounding acres. More recently, in 2009 the property was designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, the highest distinction an historic site can receive.
The Aldo Leopold Foundation is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, member-supported organization based in Baraboo, Wisconsin, founded in 1982 by the children of Aldo Leopold. The Leopold siblings saw the need to create an organization to handle the growing interest in their father’s legacy. The foundation’s mission is to inspire an ethical relationship between people and land through the legacy of Aldo Leopold. The foundation operates out of the Leopold Center, a green-built visitor center located about a mile down the road from the Leopold Shack and Farm on Levee Road in the township of Fairfield. The Aldo Leopold Foundation owns the 264 acres surrounding the Leopold Shack in addition to several other small parcels, and also manages much of the adjoining 1,800-acre Leopold Memorial Reserve established by neighboring landowners as an early land trust in 1967. The foundation acts as the executor of Leopold’s literary estate, encourages scholarship on Leopold, and serves as a clearinghouse for information regarding Leopold, his work, and his ideas. It provides on-site education programs for over 5,500 visitors annually, cooperates with partners on outreach education projects, and maintains a robust website and numerous print resources. Land stewardship initiatives work to restore healthy ecosystems and foster greater understanding of land health in various ecosystems.
Leopold’s words have stirred many to a personal ecological awareness. The foundation’s goal is to share the legacy of Aldo Leopold and to awaken an ecological conscience in the people of our nation. As long as we care about people, land, and the connections between them, we have hope for sustainable ecosystems, sustainable economies, and sustainable communities.
To learn more about the Aldo Leopold Foundation and visiting the Leopold Shack, visit their website or call 608-355-0279. You can also connect with the Aldo Leopold Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.