Aldo Leopold Farm Becomes a National Historic Landmark

WASHINGTON, DC, January 19, 2009 (ENS) – The farm of pioneer conservationist Aldo Leopold in Wisconsin has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, in one of the final actions of the outgoing Bush administration.

Eight other new National Historic Landmarks were announced Friday, located in Connecticut, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, California, Florida, Illinois, Colorado, and Arizona, but none of the others is significant to the history of American conservation.

“The historical and cultural developments reflected by these new National Historic Landmarks is tremendous,” said Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, announcing the designation Friday. “I am especially pleased to honor the place at which conservationist Aldo Leopold was inspired to write ‘A Sand County Almanac.’”

The Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm in Fairfield and Lewiston Townships is a property once owned by Aldo Leopold, who lived from January 11, 1887 to April 21, 1948. A forester, writer, professor, and conservationist, Leopold inspired natural resource conservation in America.

The Leopold Shack and Farm are now a National Historic Landmark. (Photo courtesy Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Leopold pioneered the science and profession of wildlife management and his conservation philosophies led to the establishment of national policies on forestry, game management, watershed management and soil conservation.

The influence of his concept of land health and his land ethic philosophy has endured since his death at the national and international levels.

In the early 1930s, Leopold purchased a small farm and rehabilitated a chicken coop, lovingly referred to as the Shack, in Baraboo, Wisconsin, for him and his family as a weekend retreat where they could focus on the restoration of the natural environment and observe daily and seasonal changes.

The setting of the Shack provided inspiration for Leopold’s writings on conservation, the environment, and wildlife.

After Leopold’s death in 1948, one of his most influential works, “A Sand County Almanac” was posthumously published. This was a collection of personal essays and sketches Leopold composed, working most of the time at the farm and the Shack.

“Aldo Leopold, the father of the land ethic and perhaps the most famous graduate of the school where I am dean, came to believe “that there is a basic antagonism between the philosophy of the industrial age and the philosophy of the conservationist,” wrote Gus Speth, who has served as dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies since 1999.

Writing in the current issue of “The Leopold Outlook,” published by the Aldo Leopold Foundation, Speth notes, “Remarkably, he wrote to a friend that he doubted anything could be done about conservation ‘without creating a new kind of people.’”

Aldo Leopold (Photo courtesy U. Wisconsin Aldo Leopold Archives)

The Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin has built and now operates the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, an educational and interpretive facility near the Shack and farm, located on the land where Leopold died in 1948 fighting a brush fire.

Visitors can see the Shack when they visit the Legacy Center, which was built as the embodiment of Leopold’s philosophy. The net zero energy building meets all of its energy needs on site and features solar power, geothermal, and sustainable building materials that make it one of the greenest buildings in the world.

The Legacy Center has not only received the US Green Building Council’s LEED® platinum certification, the highest possible level, but it was more highly rated than any other building yet rated in the United States. It is also the first building ever to be certified “carbon neutral.”

Each year, thousands of visitors explore the land surrounding the Shack and farm. Public guided tours of the Shack are offered by the Legacy Center from May-October of each year, and include Leopold’s history and philosophy, a visit inside the Shack, and a walk through restored prairie and woods.

“Drawing on his life-long study of ecology, land use, history, and ethics, Aldo Leopold concluded that the highest task of civilization was to figure out how ‘to live on a piece of land without spoiling it,’” says Buddy Huffaker, executive director of the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

“It’s an ideal articulated by one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century, an ideal we must embrace in this one.”

Click here to see more on the National Historic Landmark program can be found on the National Park Service website.

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