Howling wolves --- Image by © Tim Davis/CORBIS

I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails.

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The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land…. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these „resources“, but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state.

Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. By land is meant all of the things on, over, or in the earth…. The land is one organism. Its parts, like our own parts, compete with each other and co-operate with each other. The competitions are as much a part of the inner workings as the co-operations. You can regulate them–cautiously–but not abolish them.

The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little we know about it. The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: „What good is it?“ If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.
———- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There

 

We were eating lunch on a high rimrock, at the foot of which a turbulent river elbowed its way. We saw what we thought was a doe fording the torrent, her breast awash in white water. When she climbed the bank toward us and shook out her tail, we realized our error: it was a wolf. A half-dozen others, evidently grown pups, sprang from the willows and all joined in a welcoming melee of wagging tails and playful maulings. What was literally a pile of wolves writhed and tumbled in the center of an open flat at the foot of our rimrock. 

In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy… 

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes-something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters‘ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view. 

Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anemic destitute, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers. 
———- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There

 

Through persuasion, fueled by an ability to speak and write about the magic of the wilderness, Leopold convinced his Washington bosses to adopt a concept that was unique at the turn of the last century: That pieces of wild land should be set aside and kept untamed. On June 3, 1924, three-quarters of a million acres of mountains, rivers and desert in New Mexico was administratively (rather than Congressionally) designated as the Gila Wilderness, the first area in the world to be managed as a wilderness area. That same year, Leopold left the southwest and accepted a transfer to the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, where he served as associate director and began teaching at the University of Wisconsin in 1928. Leopold’s cornerstone book Game Management (1933) defined the fundamental skills and techniques for managing and restoring wildlife populations. This landmark work created a new science that intertwined forestry, agriculture, biology, zoology, ecology, education and communication. Soon after its publication, the University of Wisconsin created a new department, the Department of Game Management, and appointed Leopold as its first chair.

Leopold’s unique gift for communicating scientific concepts was only equal to his fervor for putting theories into practice. He published over 300 articles, papers, newsletters, and letters, but his articles on wilderness, wrote his biographer Curt Meine, established him „as the nation’s foremost spokesman for the preservation of wild country, and sparked a national debate over what became known as ‚the wilderness ideal.'“

In 1935, the Leopold family purchased a worn-out farm near Baraboo, Wisconsin, in an area known as the sand counties. It is here Leopold put into action his beliefs that the same tools people used to disrupt the landscape could also be used to rebuild it. An old chicken coop, fondly known as the Shack, served as a haven and land laboratory for the Leopold family, friends, and graduate students. And it was here Leopold visualized many of the essays in A Sand County Almanac.

 

Aldo Leopold war ein US-amerikanischer Forstwissenschaftler, Wildbiologe, Jäger und Ökologe. Er gilt als einer der Gründer der Naturschutzbewegung. Der Autor mehrerer Sachbücher war Preisträger der Burroughs Medal. Wikipedia

 

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