A Sand County Almanac


Aldo Leopold

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A Sand County Almanac Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Aldo Leopold

Leopold was born in Burlington Iowa, where he spent his early childhood. He was often outdoors, playing in the woods and cataloging animals. At sixteen he moved to New Jersey to attend a college preparatory school, and then attended the Sheffield School (a college associated with Yale University), and the recently founded Yale School of Forestry, where he received a graduate degree. Leopold spent his twenties working for the United States Forest Service in New Mexico and Arizona. Leopold eventually went on to accept a professorship at the University of Wisconsin, where he lived, taught, and wrote for the rest of his life.
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Historical Context of A Sand County Almanac

Leopold came of age just as Americans were beginning to consider that the wilderness was a nonrenewable resource in need of protecting. During the 1800s, as industrialization swept westward, much of the landscape, as well as its plants and animals, were consumed by this flood of civilization. The American bison was hunted almost completely to extinction, and the passenger pigeon was completely wiped out by 1914. John Muir, a writer, philosopher, and naturalist, was struck by the spectacular and relatively untouched wildernesses of the west, and advocated for the creation of Yosemite National Park, which became first national park in America in 1890. This helped lead to the creation of the National Park Service in 1916, as well as the Wilderness Society in 1935 (which Leopold cofounded), a nonprofit whose missions is to protect natural lands by petitioning the government to designate them as federally protected wildernesses, historical sites, or national monuments. However, Muir and other contemporaries—like Henry David Thoreau and even president Theodore Roosevelt—did more than legally protect the natural land. They also began a public conversation about the importance of the landscape and humankind’s duty to protect and preserve it. This is the legacy that Aldo Leopold inherited as a person passionately writing about the need to protect the natural world in the twentieth century.

Other Books Related to A Sand County Almanac

Leopold wrote in the tradition of the elder statesmen of environmental literature, such as Henry David Thoreau, whose famous work Walden (1854) is about his time alone in a cabin on Walden Pond in Massachusetts, and John Muir, co-founder of the Sierra Club, who wrote countless essays about his life and the wilderness he loved and lived in. Leopold also inspired much of the writing of American Environmentalists in the second half of the twentieth century, including the essayist and activist Wendell Berry, the biologist and author Rachel Carson, who spoke out against the widespread use of pesticides in her groundbreaking work, Silent Spring (1962), as well as Annie Dillard, who like Leopold documented a year in her life and the life of the natural world in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974).
Key Facts about A Sand County Almanac
  • Full Title: A Sand County Almanac with Essays on Conservation From Round River
  • When Written: 1940s
  • Where Written: Wisconsin
  • When Published: 1949
  • Literary Period: American Environmentalism
  • Genre: Environmental Science, Nonfiction, Philosophy
  • Setting: Saulk County, Wisconsin; Various wilderness areas around North and South America
  • Point of View: First person. Leopold narrates.

Extra Credit for A Sand County Almanac

Gila National Forest. During his time in the Forest Service in New Mexico, Leopold helped protect the Gila National Forest, which is now the sixth-largest protected forest in the United States, and contains the Gila Cliff Dwellings, a series of homes carved into the rocks by Indigenous people over six hundred years ago.

Game Management. Leopold is attributed with having founded the academic field of game management, which is dedicated to preserving the biodiversity of the earth by considering not only the needs of people but the needs of plants, animals, and ecosystems.