Aldo Leopold and The Birth of the Land Ethic

Aldo Leopold was one of the most talented and important contributors to America’s conservation movement. In the 1920s, he successfully lobbied for the creation of the first wilderness area in the world. In the 1930s, he established the field of game management by championing the idea that lands could be managed for the benefit of both the people and the wildlife that lived on it.

Also in the 1930s, he was the first to engage in habitat restoration. His experimental work at the University of Wisconsin’s arboretum was the world’s first prairie restoration project. He and his family also began a restoration project on their own farm, a property they had purchased with the intention of reestablishing forest and prairie.

His lifelong work resulted in the posthumous publication of a collection of Aldo Leopold’s essays, entitled A Sand County Almanac.  The book became an enormously influential part of America’s conservation history and ethos. Over 2 million copies have been sold and it has been translated into more than one dozen languages.

One of the important insights Leopold gave us was that rather than seeing land as a thing to be exploited, that we could view it as a community to which we belong. That, in fact, if we saw the world through this point of view, it would benefit humans and wildlife alike.

Intrigued by Leopold’s story, I traveled to Wisconsin to interview Leopold biographer Curt Meine, Leopold historian Stan Temple and the Executive Director of the Aldo Leopold Foundation, Buddy Huffaker.

The result was this podcast, which can also be viewed as a documentary on YouTube and Vimeo. I hope you enjoy it. – Jeff Ryan

Gifford Pinchot

America’s first forester Gifford Pinchot piloted the new US Forest Service into prominence and charted the way forward. This episode is currently in production.

Rachael Carson

Widely known for her groundbreaking book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson honed her craft working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This episode is currently in production.

Howard Zahniser

As Exec. Director of The Wilderness Society, Zahniser spent seven years lobbying for the adoption of The Wilderness Act of 1964.  This episode is currently in production.

Episode 1 – Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold was a visionary forester, wilderness advocate, watershed expert and pioneer in land restoration. His life’s work culminated in the development of a “land ethic”, one that encouraged us to look at land not as a commodity, but a community to which we belong.

To create this film, I traveled to Leopold’s birthplace in Burlington , Iowa, and to the Leopold family farm and home of the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin, where I interviewed Leopold’s biographer, Curt Meine, eminent Leopold historian Stanley Temple and the Executive Director of The Leopold Foundation, Buddy Huffaker. I also spent considerable time researching the project at the National Conservation Training Center, with the generous support of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

This is episode one of a series that will feature other giants of the US conservation and wilderness movements.

I hope you enjoy the film. – Jeff Ryan