Updated: Nov 11, 2020
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“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching—even when doing the wrong thing is legal.“
Throughout his early childhood, Aldo Leopold’s interactions with the nearby wilderness helped shape his understanding and admiration for nature. Aldo Leopold was born on January 11, 1887 and was raised in Burlington, Iowa, where he explored the outdoors and nearby forests for most of his childhood. The son of Carl Leopold, a manufacturer for walnut desks, and Clara Starker, he lived in a mansion on top of a limestone mountain, overlooking the Mississippi River. Despite his shy nature, he eagerly pursued the knowledge of relationships between animals and the forests. When his father took him out to hunt ducks, he ingrained the discipline of hunting them except during the nesting season.
In his early years out of schooling, Leopold primarily focused his efforts on conservation organizations and careers. Once he graduated in 1909 from Yale Forest School, Leopold enthusiastically worked for the new U.S. Forest Service in Arizona and New Mexico. Helping the new agency, he created the first fish and game handbook and the first plan to maintain the Grand Canyon. After his transfer to the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1924, he was promoted from associate director to the Professor of Game Management in the Agricultural Economics Department within nine years, earning the first title of professorship involved with wilderness management.
Leopold’s numerous accomplishments originated from his unique appreciation of nature and wilderness. To assist in the restoration of the prairies and nearby forests, Leopold and his family in 1935 returned to the “Shack” near the Wisconsin River where they planted thousands of trees. By convincing the Forest Service to protect 500,000 acres of New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, he instituted the first designated national wilderness area in the Forest Service’s records.
During his remaining time on Earth, Aldo Leopold planned to publish a book documenting the relationship between humanity and nature for the general public. In 1948, he received terrific news about the publication of his manuscript for the book. Despite the fortunate news for his book, Aldo Leopold perished a week later at 61 after a heart attack, dying on April 21, 1948. To this day, he remains as one of the most influential people in the environmental and ecological preservation of America’s wilderness.
Written by — Edward Keenan
To continue to support Leopold’s vision, donate to the Aldo Leopold Foundation. To learn more about Leopold, see the additional links.