Yesterday my wife and I took a trip over to the Mosquito Hill Nature Center just outside of New London, Wisconsin to participate in their Aldo Leopold weekend. Mosquito Hill is a terrific place that you should be aware of, if you're not already. They have a multitude of programs going on all during the year. There are several acres of "prairie" on the site (and they sell wild flower seeds), 10 miles of trails for hiking or snowshoeing, and activities ranging from astronomy to winter camping. (Check out their web-site ... link listed below)
This weekend they commemorate Aldo Leopold. The first weekend in March has been designated "Aldo Leopold Weekend" by Governor Doyle. This pioneer of conservation is famous for his book THE SAND COUNTY ALMANAC. He taught at UW in Madison and started many activities, programs, and groups such as the Wilderness Society. My wife and I constructed "Aldo Leopold Benches" yesterday. A photo of one accompanies this post. They are simple, efficient, amazingly comfortable benches that we enjoy around our campfires and vistas both at home and at our cottage. (The kit supplied by Mosquito Hill costs just $45, with the treated lumber being pre-cut and pre-drilled, and all hardware included)
To give you a flavor of THE SAND COUNTY ALMANAC I'd like to quote a few lines from Mr. Leopold's introduction to this seminal work:
"There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.
Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.
These wild things, I admit, had little human value until mechanization assured us of a good breakfast, and until science disclosed the drama of where they come from and how they live. The whole conflict thus boils down to a question of degree. We of the minority see a law of diminishing returns in progress; our opponents do not.
Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. There is no other way for land to survive the impact of mechanized man, nor for us to reap from it the esthetic harvest it is capable, under science, of contributing to culture.
That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. That land yields a cultural harvest is a fact long know, but latterly often forgotten.
Such a view of land and people is, of course, subject to the blurs and distortions of personal experience and personal bias. But wherever the truth may lie, this much is crystal clear: our bigger-and-better society is now like a hypochondriac, so obsessed with its own economic health as to have lost the capacity to remain healthy......... Nothing could be more salutary at this stage than a little healthy contempt for a plethora of material blessings.
Perhaps such a shift of values can be achieved by reappraising things unnatural, tame, and confined in terms of things natural, wild, and free."
Aldo Leopold ....... Madison, Wisconsin........4 March 1948