Walking through Leopold’s Vision

On our way out of town and out of Wisconsin, we stopped at the Leopold Center in Baraboo. (Yes, that Leopold – to those of you who remember reading the Sand County Almanac back in the 70s.)

Leopold entrance

Aldo Leopold generated ideas in the 1920s-40s for what would become the environmental movement. While in Arizona and New Mexico working for the Forest Service in the 1920s, he began to think that man’s role is not just to dominate wildlife. (He has a wilderness area named after him in New Mexico – in the Gila National Forest)

In 1933, he accepted a professorship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This professorship in wildlife was one of the first.

While living in Madison with his family and teaching, he purchased 80 acres of logged out and overgrazed farmland. He proceeded to put his ideas in practice and restored the property that was in sand country along the Wisconsin River. One of the family’s efforts was to plant 30,000 trees. Leopold studied the impact of their work on flora and fauna. (His children followed in his footsteps as scientists.)

Leopold woods

Today, the Aldo Leopold Foundation (founded in 1983 by his five children) declares “Our vision is to weave a land ethic into the fabric of our society; to advance the understanding, stewardship and restoration of land health; and to cultivate leadership for conservation.”

Leopold Foundation Headquarters

“Green” buildings include a museum hall about the history of Leopold’s ideas and practices, offices and training spaces for naturalists and scientists. Tours are also available. We checked out a map of areas to hike and headed out.


We made the Prairie Loop for a 3/4 mile trek – there are a few other trails on the property. (In Wisconsin there is an Aldo Leopold Legacy Trail System of 1728 mi of trails.)

Leopold trails

Choices to make – here we took the grass path. We walked in woods.

Leopold Mike on trail

Staying on track – not that it would matter a lot as long as we stayed on some trail. Markers help.

Leopold trail marker

Sometimes we were in meadows.

Leopold meadow

Finally, near the top we could almost get a peak at what the general landscape looks like in this part of Wisconsin – very gentle rolling hills.


This area should look great in spring – a few wildflowers hung on at the end of September.

Leopold blackeyed

Mushrooms thrived in the woods.

Trail mushrooms

One could spend some time imagining what was and what had been created by a visionary person, one with a new view on our relationship to nature. Aldo Leopold’s elegant description of the vision was in Sand County Almanac, a collection of essays.

to seed

I can recommend a visit ($7) here to spend time, participate in one of their many events, walk the woods and prairie or travel a mile down the road to see the shack he and his family lived in while the experiment went on. (Visit soon – open April to October.)

Experience your environment. We’re all in this together. Thank you Aldo Leopold.

See you on the trail!

Words by Lynn Millar, pictures by Lynn and Mike Millar, available upon request.

Sandhill Cranes will be visiting the sandbars in the Wisconsin River – and the foundation has some events the end of October/early November.

A place to explore next door – Pine Island State Wildlife Area

Leopold bird box


Published by Lynn Millar

Walker, reader, writer, traveller - see About Walking

8 thoughts on “Walking through Leopold’s Vision

  1. The Gila Wilderness, which Leopold was instrumental in preserving, is one of my favorite places to go backpacking. Ten years ago I packed in in mid-November and while camping on the West Fork of the Gila, an older Indian man appeared out of the woods. He said he just wanted to see who was camped nearby. It was pretty surreal.

  2. Hi Lynn , thanks to your visit to the International Crane Foundation, and thanks to them for sharing your resulting blogpost on their Facebook page, I crossed your path! And am happy to keep crossing it.

    But I’m getting in touch today to ask your permission to reblog this post about your walk at the Leopold Foundation. I knew when I first saw this I’d want to re-blog it someday, and today would be the one if you send me a message that you’re “ok” with that. I hope? You can reach me this way, kathlinfsickel@yahoo.com – or via WordPress, of course.

    1. Hi, Thanks for asking – and yes you can. Assume you have been there. Have you been to the original house? We didn’t have time to get there. Now I wish we had. Don’t know when we’ll get to Wisconsin again. Go Badgers! – Lynn

  3. Reblogged this on The Badger and the Whooping Crane and commented:
    I’ve always wanted to write about Aldo Leopold, as a genuine Wisconsin conservation hero, but have felt intimidated by the task. How do you write about someone whose legacy is a mile wide, and deep too, throughout America, not just Wisconsin? Someone whose already been the subject, surely, of hundreds of thousands of written words?

    Then I discovered a “walking blog,” kept by a California walker and blogger whose travels brought her to Wisconsin last summer for a couple of walks, one of them at the Aldo Leopold Foundation. So today I’m re-blogging her post about it. [That means this post you’re reading will end with the beginning of that blogger’s post – “Walking Through Leopold’s Vision.” If you click on it, you’ll be transported directly to her blog, where you can read the whole post.]

    But first, I’d like to share just a few highlights from Leopold’s deep, wide legacy to bolster the claims I’ve made above.

    Learn about Leopold’s Legacy

    In 1924 the Gila Wilderness in northern New Mexico became the first designated wilderness area on the planet. This happened, according to Wilderness.net, at the insistence of Leopold, then a relatively young professional with the U.S. Forest Service, working in the Southwest.

    In 1935 The Wilderness Society was established, Aldo Leopold among the founders. By that time he was already working in Wisconsin, where in 1933 he had published the first textbook in the field of wildlife management. That same year the University of Wisconsin had created the nation’s first chair in game managent for it’s new Professor Aldo Leopold.

    A California Walker Blogs about the Legacy

    There’s a lot more, but that’s enough for now. Here’s a word about Lynn Millar’s Walking through Sonoma County . . .mostly. The title says it like it is: Lynn takes walks and writes about them. She makes the point that these are not ‘hikes,’ but short, flat ‘walks.’ Most of them are in Sonoma County; overwhelmingly they seem to be in California. I found some in Oregon, and this past summer she posted about walking in Chicago and southern Wisconsin.

    If you’re a true walker, you’ll enjoy a look at this blog even if you never set foot on any of the particular paths described. Of course, if you’re in Wisconsin, wouldn’t you want to follow Lynn as she went —

    Walking Through Leopold’s Vision

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