In a world where life perishes and modernization gets in the way of natural habitats of different species, wildlife conservation is a key factor in keeping Nature’s gift of life in balance. Aldo Leopold is considered by some as the father of wildlife conservation. He happened to be one of the leaders of what is now known as the American wilderness movement and throughout his life, he had played many roles ranging from being a wildlife manager, naturalist, hunter, poet, visionary, and philosopher to name a few. He is credited for the development of the first national wilderness area in the country back in 1924.
Early Life and Personal Background
A native of Burlington, Iowa, Rand Aldo Leopold was born on January 11, 1887. He was the son of a top manufacturer of fine walnut desks named Carl Leopold, and had been the grandson of a landscape architect who had received education in Germany. He had a comfortable life, and he grew up living in a mansion situated atop a limestone buff which overlooked the Mississippi River. Down this mansion and across the railroad tracks lay a big river, and this river served as a pathway for migrating geese and ducks. For a young boy, this was like a wildlife wonderland waiting to be discovered.
According to his brother named Frederic, Aldo didn’t talk much but was a bright student. He also had a love for reading especially about wood lore. He also knew a great deal about what the animals ate, what chases animals, and which animals ate which other animals. His love for the great outdoors is said to have been something he got from their father.
During early mornings in the fall, he and his father would explore the marsh and wait for the ducks. During the off-season, marsh exploration was still something they did, and during these times, Aldo learned from his father that it was not right to hunt during nesting season—this was a realization instilled upon him long before there were federal laws established about prohibiting hunting during this season.
Gifford Pinchot who was a forester and politician donated money to the Yale University to start one of the country’s first forestry schools. After Aldo heard of this development, he decided to take forestry as his vocation. Before being accepted at Yale, he attended the Lawrenceville School which was a preparatory college situated in New Jersey.
Aldo attended the Burlington High School and his principal there wrote a letter referring Aldo to the Lawrenceville School. It was in January 1904 when he arrived in Lawrenceville School, shortly before turning seventeen. He showed his love for the great outdoors despite Lawrenceville’s mostly rural setup and he was frequently mapping the place while he made notes on the wildlife he saw. He studied there for a year, and was later on accepted to Yale. Since the Yale Forest School only gave graduate degrees, he first had to enroll for the preparatory forest courses in Sheffield Scientific School.
He graduated from Yale with his Master’s Degree in Forestry in June 1909. Afterwards, he joined the United States Forest Service where he was then assigned to the New Mexico and Arizona areas.
Initially, he was one of the forest assistants at the Apache National Forest which is in the Arizona territory. In 1911, Aldo was transferred to northern New Mexico, specifically to the Carson National Forest. This phase of his career kept him in the same location until 1924 and it included developing the very first management plan for the Grand Canyon. He also wrote the Forest Service’s very first fish and game handbook. That time was also when he proposed the Gila Wilderness Area which is the country’s first national wilderness area recorded in the Forest Service system. This proposal was submitted in 1922, and completion of the handbook was in 1923.
He had a fruitful career related to forestry, and in 1924 he was transferred to the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory located in Madison, Wisconsin. There he became an associate director. Nine years later he became the Professor of Game Management in the Agricultural Economics Department which is known as the first professorship for wildlife management. In 1935, he assisted the founding of the Wilderness Society and in the same year he was able to acquire “The Shack” which was the setting for most of his sketches. In autumn of that same year he studied forestry and wildlife management in Germany since he had a Carl Schurz fellowship.
A few years later in 1939, he became the chairman of the new Department of Wildlife Management which was at the University of Wisconsin. In 1943, he had been appointed by a governor to have a 6-year term in the Wisconsin Conservation Commission which was largely focused on deer policy. A year before his death in 1948, he was still able to submit the revised manuscript titled “Great Possessions” and it was accepted in1948.
Personal Life and Death
Aldo lived with his wife and children in a two-storey home which was near the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His children also became naturalists and teachers. Today, the home of the Leopolds which was occupied by Aldo and his family stands as one of the landmarks of Madison. They purchased this 80-acre area in 1935 and this worn out farm was where Aldo practiced some of his knowledge in building a disrupted landscape. The place was also known as the sand counties, and “The Shack” was an old chicken coop that served as their family laboratory which was also open to friends and other graduate students.
He was able to publish over 300 articles about the wilderness in his lifetime. In 1948, soon after his last work called the “A Sand County Almanac,” he was struck by heart attack and died on April 21. During the incident, he had been fighting a grassfire on one of his neighbor’s farms. He was later on buried in Burlington, Iowa, his hometown.