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.)
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.)
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.”
“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.)
Choices to make – here we took the grass path. We walked in woods.
Staying on track – not that it would matter a lot as long as we stayed on some trail. Markers help.
Sometimes we were in meadows.
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.
Mushrooms thrived in the woods.
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.
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