A Sand County Almanac

A Sand County Almanac

Aldo Leopold Character Analysis

The protagonist and narrator of A Sand County Almanac. Leopold is a trained ecologist and a professor of game management, but in this book his primary focus is articulating a kind of ethical philosophy concerning the environment. He is concerned with finding a way for humans to interact with the landscape and take pleasure from it without destroying it. He lives in Wisconsin, where the first third of the book takes place, but draws from his travels around the world to illustrate the different challenges that diverse global wildernesses are facing. Leopold is a blend of an academic and a dedicated outdoorsman. He is a complex thinker, and has developed a deep philosophy surrounding the art of land management—a philosophy based entirely on his personal relationship with the land and the observations he has made during a lifetime spent visiting and living in the wilderness.

Aldo Leopold Quotes in A Sand County Almanac

The A Sand County Almanac quotes below are all either spoken by Aldo Leopold or refer to Aldo Leopold. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Time and History  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ballantine Books edition of A Sand County Almanac published in 1966.
Part I: February Quotes

Now comes the job of making wood. The maul rings on steel wedges as the sections of trunk are upended one by one, only to fall apart in fragrant slabs to be corded by the roadside.

There is an allegory for historians in the diverse functions of saw, wedge, and axe.

The saw works only across the years, which it must deal with one by one, in sequence. From each year the raker teeth pull little chips of fact, which accumulate in little piles, called sawdust by woodsmen and archives by historians; both judge the character of what lies within by the character of the samples thus made visible without. It is not until the transect is completed that the tree falls, and the stump yields a collective view of a century. By its fall the tree attests the unity of the hodge-podge called history.

The wedge, on the other hand, works only in radial splits; such a split yields a collective view of all years at once, or no view at all depending on the skill with which the plane of the split is chosen. (If in doubt, let the section season for a year until a crack develops. Many a hastily driven wedge lies rusting in the roods, embedded in unsplittable cross-grain.)

The axe functions only at an angle diagonal to the years, and this only for the peripheral rings of the recent past. Its special function is to top limbs, for which both saw and wedge are useless.

The three tools are requisite to good oak, and to good history.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Related Symbols: Wood, Tools
Page Number: 17
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Part I: March Quotes

One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a mark thaw, is the spring.

A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence. A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed. But a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance of finding a hole in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat. His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges.

A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese. I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaim the revolving seasons to her well-insulated roof. Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 19
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Part I: July Quotes

During every week from April to September there are, on the average, ten wild plants coming into first bloom. In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them. He who steps unseeing on May dandelions may be hauled up short by August ragweed pollen; he who ignores the ruddy haze of April elms may skid his car on the fallen corollas of June catalpas. Tell me of what plant-birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about this vocation, his hobbies, his hay fever, and the general level of his ecological education.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 47
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The Highway Department says that 100,000 cars pass yearly over this route during the three summer months when the Silphium is in bloom. In them must ride at least 100,000 people who has ‘taken what is called history, and perhaps 25,000 who has ‘taken’ what is called botany. Yet I doubt whether a dozen have seen the Silphium, and of these hardly one will notice its demise. If I were to tell a preacher of the adjoining church that the road crew has been burning history books in his cemetery, under the guise of moving weeds, he would be amazed and uncomprehending. How could a weed be a book?
This is one little episode in the funeral of the native flora, which in turn is one episode in the funeral of the floras of the world. Mechanized man, oblivious of floras, is proud of his progress in cleaning up the landscapes on which, willy-nilly, he must live out his days. It might be wise to prohibit at once all teaching of real botany and real history, lest some future citizen suffer qualms about the floristic price of his good life.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Related Symbols: Silphium
Page Number: 49
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Part I: November Quotes

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, but He is no longer the only on to do so. When some remote ancestor of ours invented the shovel, he became a giver: he could plant a tree. And when the axe was invented, he became a taker: he could chop it down. Whoever owns land has thus assumed, whether he knows it or not, the divine functions of creating and destroying plants.

Other ancestors, less remote, have since invented other tools, but each of these, upon close scrutiny, proves to be either an elaboration of or an accessory to, the original pair of basic implements. We classify ourselves into vocations, each of which either wields some particular tool, or sells it, or repairs it, or sharpens it, or dispenses advice on how to do so; by such division of labors we avoid responsibility for the misuse of any tool save our own. But there is one vocation—philosophy—which knows that all men, by what they think about and wish for, in effect wield all tools. It knows that men thus determine, by their manner of thinking and wishing, whether it is worthwhile to wield any.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Related Symbols: Tools
Page Number: 72
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I have read many definitions of what is a conservationist, and written not a few myself, but I suspect that the best one is written not with a pen, but with an axe. It is a matter of what a man thinks about while chopping, or while deciding what to chop. A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land. Signatures of course differ, whether written with axe or pen, and this is as it should be.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Related Symbols: Tools
Page Number: 73
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Part II: Wisconsin Quotes

Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language. The quality of cranes lies, I think, in this higher gamut, as yet beyond the reach of words.

This much, though, can be said: our appreciation of the crane grows with the slow unraveling of earthly history. His tribe, we now know, stems out of the remote Eocene. The other members of the fauna in which he originated are long since entombed within the hills. When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of the incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.

And so they live and have their being—these cranes—not in the constricted present, but in the wider reaches of evolutionary time. Their annual return is the ticking of the geologic clock. Upon the place of their return they confer a peculiar distinction. Amid the endless mediocrity of the commonplace, a crane marsh holds a paleontological patent of nobility, won in the march of aeons, and revocable only by shotgun. The sadness discernible in some marshes arises, perhaps, from their once having harbored cranes. Now they stand humbled, adrift in history.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 102
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Part II: Arizona and New Mexico Quotes

We all strive for safety, posterity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is being Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the world, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 141
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Since the beginning, time had gnawed at the basaltic hulk of the Escudilla, wasting, waiting, and building. Time built three things on the old mountain, a venerable aspect, a community of minor animals and plants, and a grizzly.
The government trapper who took the grizzly knew he had made Escudilla safe for cows. He did not know he had toppled the spire of an edifice a-building since the morning stars sang together.

The bureau chief who sent the trapper was a biologist versed in the architecture of evolution, but he did not k now that spires might be as important as cows. He did not foresee that within two decades the cow country would become tourist country, and as such have greater need of bears than of beefsteaks.
The Congressmen who voted money to clear the ranges of bears were the songs of pioneers. They acclaimed the superior virtues of the frontiersman, but hey strove with might and main to make an end of the frontier.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 144
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Part II: Chihuahua and Sonora Quotes

The physics of beauty is one department of natural science still in the Dark Ages. Not even the manipulators of bent space have tried to solve its equations. Everybody knows, for example, that the autumn landscape in the north woods is the land, plus a red maple, plus a ruffed grouse. In terms of conventional physics, the grouse represents only a millionth of either the mass or the energy of an acre. Yet subtract the grouse and the whole thing is dead. An enormous amount of some kind of motive power has been lost.

It is easy to say tat the loss is all in our mind’s eye, but is there any sober ecologist who will agree? He knows full well that there has been an ecological death, the significance of which is inexpressible in terms of contemporary science. A philosopher has called this imponderable essence the numenon of material things. It stands in contradistinction to phenomenon, which is ponderable and predictable, even to the tossings and turnings of the remotest star.

The grouse is the numenon of the north woods, the blue jay of the hickory groves, the whisky-jack of the muskegs, the piñonero of the juniper foothills. Ornithological texts do not record these facts. I suppose they are new to science, however obvious to the discerning scientist. Be that as it may, I here record the discovery of the numenon of the Sierra Madre: the Thick-billed Parrot.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 146
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There are men charged with the duty of examining the construction of the plants, animals, and soils, which are the instruments of the great orchestra. These men are called professors. Each selects one instrument and calls his life taking it apart and describing its strings and sounding boards. This process of dismemberment is called research. The place for dismemberment is called a university.
A professor may pluck the strings of his own instrument, but never that of another, and if he listens for music he must never admit it to his fellows or to his students. For all are restrained by an ironbound taboo which decrees that the construction of instruments is the domain of science, while the detection of harmony is the domain of poets.

Professors serve science and science serves progress. It serves progress so well that many of the more intricate instruments are stepped upon and broken in the rush to spread progress to all backward lands. One by one the parts are thus stricken from the song of songs. If the professor is able to classify each instrument before it is broken, he is well content.

Science contributes moral as well as material blessings to the world. Its great moral contribution is objectivity, or the scientific point of view. This means doubting everything except facts; it means hewing to the facts, let the chips fall where they may. One of the facts hewn to by science is that every river needs more people, and all people need more inventions, and hence more science; the good life depends on the indefinite extension of this chain of logic. That the good life on any river may likewise depend on the perception of its music, and the preservation of some music to perceive, is a form of doubt not yet entertained by science.
Science has not yet arrived on the Gavilan, so the otter plays tag in its pools and riffles and chases the fat rainbows from under its mossy banks with never a thought for the flood that one day will scour the bank into the Pacific, or for the sportsman who will one day dispute his title to the trout. Like the scientist, he has no doubts about this own design for living. He assumes that for him the Gavilan will sing forever.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 162
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Part III: Country Quotes

There is much confusion between land and country. Land is the place where corn, gullies, and mortgages grow. Country is the personality of land, the collective harmony of its soil, life, and weather. Country knows no mortgages, no alphabetical agencies, no tobacco road; it is calmly aloof to these petty exigencies of its alleged owners. That the previous occupant of my farm was a bootlegger mattered not one whit to its grouse; they sailed as proudly over the thickets as if they were guests of a king.

Poor land may be rich country, and vice versa. Only economists mistake physical opulence for riches. Country may be rich despite a conspicuous poverty of physical endowment, and its quality may not be apparent at first glance, or at all times.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 177
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Part III: A Man’s Leisure Time Quotes

The text of this sermon is taken from the gospel according to Ariosto. I do not know the chapter and verse, but this is what he says: ‘How miserable are the idle hours of the ignorant man!’

There are not many texts that I am able to accept as gospel truths, but this is one of them. I am willing to rise up and declare my belief that this text is literally true; true forward, true backward, true even before breakfast. The man who cannot enjoy his leisure is ignorant, though his degrees exhaust the alphabet, and the man who does enjoy his leisure is to some extent educated, though he has never seen the inside of a school.

I cannot easily imagine a greater fallacy than for one who has several hobbies to speak on the subject to those who may have none. For this implies prescription of avocation by one person for another, which is the antithesis of whatever virtue may inhere in having any at all. You do not annex a hobby, the hobby annexes you. To prescribe a hobby would be dangerously akin to prescribing a wife—with about the same probability of a happy outcome.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 181
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Part III: The Round River Quotes

In our educational system, the biotic continuum is seldom pictured to us as a stream. From our tenderest years we are fed facts about the soils, floras, and faunas that comprise the channel of Round River (biology), and their origins in time (geology and evolution), and about the technique of exploiting them (agriculture and engineering). But the concept of a current with droughts and freshets, backwaters and bars, is left to inference. To learn the hydrology of the biotic stream we must think at right angles to evolution and examine the collective behavior of biotic materials. This calls for a reversal of specialization; instead of learning more and more about less and less, we must learn more and more about the whole biotic landscape.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Related Symbols: Round River
Page Number: 189
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Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. By land is meant all of the things on, over, or in the earth. Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish his right hand and chop off his left. That is to say, you cannot love game and hate predators; you cannot conserve the waters and waste the ranges; you cannot build the forest and mine the farm. 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 is known 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.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 190
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Part III: Goose Music Quotes

I am sure those thousand geese are paying human dividends on a dollar value. Worth in dollars is only an exchange value, like the sale value of a painting or the copyright of a poem. What about the replacement value? Supposing there were no longer any painting, or poetry, or goose music? It is a black thought to dwell upon, but it must be answered. In dire necessity somebody must write another Iliad, or paint an ‘Angelus,’ but fashion a goose? ‘I, the Lord, will answer them. The hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel created it.’…If, then, we can live without goose music, we may as well do away with stars, or sunsets, or Iliads. But the point is that we would be fools to do away with any of them.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 229
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Part IV: The Land Ethic Quotes

All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in the community, but his ethics prompt him also to co-operate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for).

The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 239
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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.

In short, a land ethic changes the role of Home sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.

In human history, we have learned (I hope) that the conqueror role is eventually self-defeating. Why? Because it is implicit in such a role that the conqueror knows, ex cathedra, just what makes the community clock tick, and just what and who is valuable, and what and who is worthless, in community life. It always turns out that he knows neither, and this is why his conquests eventually defeat themselves.

In the biotic community, a parallel situation exists. Abraham knew exactly what the land was for: it was to drip milk and honey into Abraham’s mouth. At the present moment, the assurance with which we regard this assumption is inverse to the degree of our education.

The ordinary citizen today assumes that science knows what makes the community clock tick; the scientist is equally sure that he does not. He knows that the biotic mechanism is so complex that is workings may never be fully understood.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 240
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When the logic of history hungers for bread and we hand out a stone, we are at pains to explain how much the stone resembles bread. I now describe some of the stones which serve in lieu of a land ethic.

One of the basic weaknesses in a conservation system based wholly on economic motives is that most members of the land community have no economic value. Wildflowers and songbirds are examples. Of the 22,000 higher plants and animals native to Wisconsin, it is doubtful whether more than 5 per cent can be sold, fed, eaten, or otherwise put to economic use. Yet these creatures are members of the biotic community, and if (as I believe) its stability depends on its integrity, they are entitled to continuance.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 246
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The thumbnail sketch of land as an energy circuit conveys three basic ideas:

(1) That land is not merely soil.

(2) That the native plants and animals kept the energy circuit open; others may or may not.

(3) That man-made changes are of a different order than evolutionary changes, and have effects more comprehensive than is intended or foreseen.

These ideas, collectively, raise two basic issues: Can the land adjust itself to the new order? Can the desired alterations be accomplished with less violence?

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 255
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…We see repeated the same basic paradoxes: man the conqueror versus man the biotic citizen; science the sharpener of his sword versus science the searchlight on his universe; land the slave and servant versus land the collective organism. Robinson’s injunction to Tristram may well be applied, at this juncture, to Homo sapiens as a species in geological time:
Whether you will or not

You are a King, Tritram, for you are one

Of the time-tested few that leave the world,

When they are gone, not the same place it was.

Mark what you leave.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 260
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It is inconceivable to me that an ethical relation to the land can exist without love, respect, and admiration for land, and a high regard for its value. By value, I of course mean something far broader than mere economic value; I mean value in the philosophical sense.

Perhaps the most serious obstacle impeding the evolution of the land ethic is the fact that our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than towards, an intense consciousness of land.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 261
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Part IV: Wilderness Quotes

Wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization.

Wilderness was never a homogenous raw material. It was very diverse, and the resulting artifacts are very diverse. These differences in the end-product are known as cultures. The rich diversity of the world’s cultures reflects a corresponding diversity in the wilds that gave them birth.
For the first time in the history of the human species, two changes are now impending. One is the exhaustion of wilderness in the more habitable portions of the globe. The other is the world-wide hybridization of cultures through modern transport and industrialization. Neither can be prevented, and perhaps should be, but the question arises weather, by some slight amelioration of the impending changes, certain values can be preserved that would otherwise be lost.

To the laborer in the sweat of his labor, the raw stuff on his anvil is an adversary to be conquered. So was wilderness an adversary to the pioneer.

But to the laborer in repose, able for the moment to cast a philosophical eye on his world, that same raw stuff is something to be loved and cherished, because it gives definition and meaning to his life. This is a plea for the preservation of some tag-ends of wilderness, as museum pieces, for the edification of those who may one day wish to see, feel, or study the origins of their cultural inheritance.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 264
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Ability to see the cultural value of wilderness boils down, in the last analysis, to a question of intellectual humility. The shallow-minded modern who has lost his rootage in the land assumes that he has already discovered what is important; it is such who prate of empires, political or economic, that will last a thousand years. It is only the scholar who appreciates that all history consists of successive excursions from a single starting-point, to which man returns again and again to organize yet another search for a durable scale of values. It is only the scholar who understands why the raw wilderness gives definition and meaning to the human enterprise.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 279
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Part IV: Conservation Esthetic Quotes

Recreation, however, is not the outdoors, but our reaction to it. Daniel Boone’s reaction depended not only on the quality of what he saw, but on the quality of the mental eye with which he say it. Ecological science has wrought a change in the mental eye. It has disclosed origins and functions for what to Boone were only facts. It has disclosed mechanisms for what to Boone were only attributes. We have no yardstick to measure this change, but we may safely say that, as compared with the competent ecologist of the day, Boone say only the surface of things.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 291
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The trophy-recreationist has peculiarities that contribute in subtle ways to his own undoing. To enjoy he must possess, invade appropriate. Hence the wilderness that he cannot personally see has no value to him. Hence the universal assumption that an unused hinterland is rendering no service to society. To those devoid of imagination, a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part. (Is my share in Alaska worthless to me because I shall never go there? Do I need a road to show me the arctic prairie, the goose pastures of the Yukon, the Kodiak bear, the sheep meadows behind McKinley?)

It would appear, in short, that the rudimentary grades of outdoor recreation consume their resource-base; the higher grades, at least to a degree, create their own satisfactions with little or no attrition of land or life. It is the expansion of transport without a corresponding growth of perception that threatens us with qualitative bankruptcy of the recreational process. Recreation development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 294
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Aldo Leopold Character Timeline in A Sand County Almanac

The timeline below shows where the character Aldo Leopold appears in A Sand County Almanac. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I: January
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
...shares the same title as the book) is meant to show, month by month, how Aldo Leopold and his family live on the weekends. Although he teaches at the University of... (full context)
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Leopold observes a midwinter thaw after a series of blizzards. A skunk comes briefly out of... (full context)
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The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Leopold watches a meadow mouse and hypothesizes about the animal’s thoughts. Leopold supposes that the mouse... (full context)
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Following the skunk tracks farther across the snow, Leopold wonders about the skunks’ thoughts and motivations once again. He wonders if it is fair... (full context)
Part I: February
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The Value of the Land Theme Icon
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Leopold believes that not owning a farm poses a “spiritual danger” to a person or a... (full context)
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Leopold cut down the oak tree that is currently heating his home. He thinks back to... (full context)
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The oak tree contains its own history in its rings. Leopold describes the sawdust as the tree is cut as “fragrant little chips of history,” and... (full context)
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Cutting through the tree, Leopold journeys back in time. He cuts through the years he has owned the farm where... (full context)
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Continuing back in time, Leopold notes the year Governor Philip of Wisconsin argued, “state forestry is not a good business... (full context)
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...the last wild turkey in Wisconsin, and all the way back to the Civil War. Leopold thinks the central question of the war is: “is the man-man community lightly to be... (full context)
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Finally, Leopold has cut to the center of the tree, 1865. He cuts back out the other... (full context)
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Leopold reflects that he will return the ashes from the oak burning in his stove to... (full context)
Part I: March
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Leopold knows that spring comes when geese begin their migration. He argues that a single cardinal... (full context)
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Leopold argues that March is only “drab” to people who ignore the geese. He tells an... (full context)
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...spring they know they are temporarily safe, and take more stops on their migratory journey. Leopold is happy to see the geese return. He proclaims, “our geese are home again!” (full context)
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Leopold observes the geese and wonders what they are saying to each other and how they... (full context)
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After many years of research, Leopold reports that he and his students found that geese travel in flocks composed of their... (full context)
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Leopold remarks that it is ironic that human nations remain so fragmented, and only “discovered the... (full context)
Part I: April
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In April, Leopold meditates on the spring floods that sometimes trap him and his family on their farm.... (full context)
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The floods bring miscellaneous objects and scraps of wood to Leopold’s yard. In the wood especially, Leopold finds “an anthology of human strivings in upriver farms... (full context)
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Sitting by the banks of the flooded river, Leopold believes that the solitude created by a spring flood is the most intense kind of... (full context)
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Leopold considers the draba flower. It is so small that those who are not looking for... (full context)
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Leopold catalogues the bur oak, a tree notable for being able to withstand a prairie fire.... (full context)
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Leopold concludes by reminding the reader that to own “a veteran bur oak” is to own... (full context)
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Leopold enjoys a performance that he calls the “sky dance.” The sky dance is a nightly... (full context)
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Leopold observes that the sky dance occurs on hundreds of farms, but is ignored by farmers... (full context)
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Leopold sees the woodcock as a symbol of the grand utility of birds beyond their use... (full context)
Part I: May
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Leopold knows that spring has truly arrived when the upland plover, a type of waterfowl, returns... (full context)
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The plover’s migration, in Leopold’s mind, serves to “prove again the age-old unity of the Americas.” Although political and diplomatic... (full context)
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Leopold notes that the plover has only two natural enemies, the gully and the drainage ditch.... (full context)
Part I: June
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One day in June, Leopold goes to a nearby stream to fish. At first he has little luck, but then... (full context)
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Leopold spends many hours trying to catch a trout. He reflects that men are like fish:... (full context)
Part I: July
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While Leopold officially owns one hundred and twenty acres of land, he remarks that he owns all... (full context)
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Leopold lists the “tenants” of his land. He jokes that they don’t pay their rents, but... (full context)
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Together with his dog, Leopold leaves his porch and begins to explore. He notes that his dog is uninterested in... (full context)
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As the sun rises, the birds begin to quiet and Leopold hears his neighbor’s tractor. He observes that the world is no longer his, as the boundaries... (full context)
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Each week, from April to September, many new wild flowers begin to bloom. Leopold remarks that while no one could observe the blossoming of every flower, everyone is bound... (full context)
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In July, Leopold is especially happy to celebrate the “prairie birthday” of the Silphium plant, which blooms in... (full context)
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Each year, Leopold calculates, 100,000 people drive past the patch of Silphium. But of those people he bets... (full context)
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During the weekend, when Leopold lives on his farm, he lives in the backwoods and sees all kinds of wild... (full context)
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Leopold notes how, surprisingly, railroads have ended up protecting many native plants, by preventing anyone from... (full context)
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Leopold notes that humans “grieve only for what we know,” and do not miss the loss... (full context)
Part I: August
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Leopold describes a nearby river as an artist who paints beautiful scenes on the surface of... (full context)
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...have in turn attracted wild animals. You cannot preserve the beauty of the scene, but Leopold reminds the reader: “in your mind you may hang up your picture.” (full context)
Part I: September
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By September, the birds have begun to stop singing in the mornings. Leopold finds extra joy in hearing bird song when it is rarer. Although often he wakes... (full context)
Part I: October
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Leopold breaks hunting down into two categories:  category one is hunting grouse in Adams county when... (full context)
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When hunting for grouse in the tamaracks, Leopold trusts that his dog knows best. He enjoys the moments of uncertainty when the dog... (full context)
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Leopold believes that the “sweetest hunts are stolen,” by which he means the best hunts are... (full context)
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Leopold finds great beauty in the nearby tamarack groves. Even when he is pursuing a grouse,... (full context)
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Wandering through the wilderness, Leopold comes across an old abandoned farm. He can tell when it was abandoned because a... (full context)
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Many animals wake up “too early,” and Leopold observes that freight trains and hunters do as well. Leopold believes all early risers feel... (full context)
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When hunting partridge, Leopold recommends either making a plan, or wandering aimlessly from one blackberry plant (which he calls... (full context)
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Leopold concedes that his dog is the true expert on partridges, and he knows he will... (full context)
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...It is partially a matter of skill but there is a huge component of chance. Leopold doesn’t seem to mind this, and accepts it as part of life. (full context)
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On the last day of grouse season, Leopold observes “every blackberry blows out his light.” He wonders how the bushes sync so perfectly... (full context)
Part I: November
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Leopold compares the landowner to God; just as “the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away,” the... (full context)
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...warm enough to work outside, but not too cold as to make the work unbearable. Leopold considers definitions of what a conservationist is, and wonders if a conservationist is best defined... (full context)
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Leopold considers his own biases when wielding an axe, and notices he favors pine trees over... (full context)
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Leopold notices that he has more biases than his neighbors, likely because he knows more about... (full context)
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Since buying his land, Leopold has realized how many types of diseases trees can get. Although he wishes there were... (full context)
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In the winter when Leopold and his family begin to harvest dead trees and turn them into firewood, chickadees come... (full context)
Part I: December
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Leopold wonders if his universe is bigger, or if the animals that live on his land... (full context)
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Leopold argues that “science knows little about home range,” but the farm itself is “a textbook... (full context)
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Leopold compares the act of caring for a farm to an act of divine creation. Planting... (full context)
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Leopold tracks a year in the life of a pine. Its year begins in May, when... (full context)
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Pines can also share “gossip” with Leopold. For example, based on how many of the lower branches of a pine have been... (full context)
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...them (that is, to mark them with numbered tags in order to later identify them). Leopold bands the chickadees that visit his feeder, and describes the act of banding a bird... (full context)
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Every year for the past ten years, Leopold and his family have captured and banded birds, which they have then released into the... (full context)
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Leopold considers the life of a chickadee. Wind governs much of their behavior, and acts as... (full context)
Part II: Wisconsin
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Since the ice age, Leopold says, cranes have arrived on the Wisconsin peat bogs. The bogs themselves contain layers of... (full context)
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Leopold observes that nature’s worth often derives from its beauty, but that nature can hold value... (full context)
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Leopold recounts a broad survey of the history of the cranes and the marshland. First, a... (full context)
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Leopold believes that the engineers who drained the marshes didn’t care about the cranes, and imagines... (full context)
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Leopold argues that “the ultimate value in these marshes is wildness, and the crane is wildness... (full context)
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Leopold bought a farm in the Sand Counties in the 1930s. The counties are economically poor,... (full context)
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Leopold traces the life of an atom from the Paleozoic era to the present. The atom... (full context)
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Tracing another atom, Leopold imagines a farmer coming into the prairie and failing to understand the value of natural... (full context)
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Leopold meditates on the now extinct passenger pigeon, for whom a monument was built and dedicated... (full context)
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Leopold worries that not many people know what he now deeply understands: humans travel forward in... (full context)
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...not go extinct when they did, farmers protecting their land would have killed them later. Leopold feels this misses the point. He believes that the ability “to love what was” and... (full context)
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Leopold considers childhood and the wilderness after some young men canoe past him on a river.... (full context)
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Leopold remembers his own childhood. Going down a nearby river, he felt that the wilderness was... (full context)
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In his final passage in the chapter, Leopold reflects upon an old oak that had been girdled, and had died. Killing this tree... (full context)
Part II: Illinois and Iowa
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Taking a bus through the Illinois countryside, Leopold watches a farmer and his son cut down a tree. Leopold remarks that a tree... (full context)
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On the bus, Leopold observes only a thin slice of prairie between the road and the fences of the... (full context)
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The bus enters the Green River Soil Conservation district. Leopold notes that a creek has been redirected into a straight line “uncurled” by an engineer... (full context)
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The farm Leopold visits is clearly wealthy, as evidenced by fresh paint and well-fed animals. However, Leopold wonders... (full context)
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Listening to other passengers talk on the bus, Leopold infers that to them, “Illinois has no genesis, no history”—it is simply a state to... (full context)
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Reflecting back on his childhood, Leopold wonders if children are actually more developed than adults, more attuned to the wonders of... (full context)
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Leopold recounts a story of killing a duck after waiting by a hole in an iced-over... (full context)
Part II: Arizona and New Mexico
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When Leopold first moved to Arizona in the early 1900s, the state’s White Mountains were inaccessible except... (full context)
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At the top of the mountain was a huge meadow. Although Leopold felt he was freshly discovering it every time he crossed it, the names and dates... (full context)
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Leopold has not recently returned to White Mountain, and is nervous to see the effects “tourists,... (full context)
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Leopold believes mountains have opinions on the wolves that roam them. Leopold himself used to kill... (full context)
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...cowmen let their animals run wild, contributing to the environmental devastation of the dust bowl. Leopold reflects that “too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run.” He... (full context)
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...last grizzly on the mountain. The bear itself was unimpressive, with a patchy, worthless coat. Leopold felt the death of this bear was an unfair trade for so-called “progress.”   (full context)
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...cows, but twenty years later the cows would be gone and tourists would take over. Leopold remarks that the area has “greater need of bears than of beefsteaks,” and that killing... (full context)
Part II: Chihuahua and Sonora
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Leopold believes that natural beauty is unquantifiable. He gives an example of a landscape that is... (full context)
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After listing other birds that greatly enhance their environments, Leopold observes, “ornithological texts do not record these facts.” Nonetheless, he finds them important, and tells... (full context)
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Leopold offers some advice: he argues that a person should never return to a wilderness they... (full context)
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...it was salty. The wilderness was so wild it did not yet have place names. Leopold recalls seeing flocks of cranes, and while he suspected they were Sandhill cranes, the name... (full context)
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Reflecting on the Rio Gavilan, a river in the Sierra Madre mountain range, Leopold recalls the “pulsing harmony” of the wilderness. Most rivers have been, in Leopold’s mind, misused. Even... (full context)
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Leopold wonders if it is possible for humans and nature to live in harmony. In the... (full context)
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Leopold criticizes academia for having experts and professors focus their studies so narrowly. He compares this... (full context)
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Science contributes to the world both materially and morally, but Leopold argues its most important (if most dangerous) contribution is the scientific point of view, the... (full context)
Part II: Oregon and Utah
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Leopold observes that even when one species of plant or animal pest is conquered by nature,... (full context)
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...in hayfields and lowers the quality of hay, and prevents pine seedlings from growing. However, Leopold has observed that “cheat-afflicted regions” manage to find uses for it. It reduces erosion, and... (full context)
Part II: Manitoba
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Leopold argues that a conventional academic education blinds its students to the natural world. He praises... (full context)
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Leopold is especially excited by a western grebe that frequents the marsh. He criticizes a birder... (full context)
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Leopold is upset to see that the marshlands which once spotted the prairies are disappearing. Because... (full context)
Part III: Country
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Leopold explains how he perceives the difference between land and country. He defines land as something... (full context)
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Leopold complains that many people only want to see “scenic” places, and only judge country to... (full context)
Part III: A Man’s Leisure Time
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Leopold accepts as “gospel truth” the saying “how miserable are the idle hours of the ignorant... (full context)
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Leopold attempts to define a hobby. He decides to call it “a defiance of the contemporary,”... (full context)
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Leopold tells a series of anecdotes about men he knew who made good use of their... (full context)
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Leopold proposes that falconry is the “most glamorous hobby” he knows. Hunting with a falcon is... (full context)
Part III: The Round River
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...a fabled Wisconsin river, described in folktales, which was said to flow in a circle. Leopold explains that this was a parable, and the state of Wisconsin is itself a round... (full context)
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Leopold complains that children in school are taught facts about biology, geology, agriculture, and engineering, but... (full context)
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Leopold compares conservation to a friendship, in that it requires a harmony between humans and the... (full context)
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Leopold believes the most important discovery of the century has been how complicated the land is.... (full context)
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Leopold shares an anecdote about a German mountain. Humans have carefully managed it for over two... (full context)
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Leopold worries that conservation in America only cares about “show pieces,” and prioritizes the preservation of... (full context)
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Leopold argues that people use the wrong metrics when considering the best way to protect the... (full context)
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...domesticated plants and animals into the ecosystem via farming, which affects the circle of life. Leopold does not yet know how replacing domesticated animals for wild ones will change the land,... (full context)
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Leopold describes an ecological education as preparing a person to live alone “in a world of... (full context)
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Leopold thinks that, when modifying the environment, every person should consider two criteria: whether their change... (full context)
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Leopold worries about “clean farming,” a kind of farming which is mean to restore the soil,... (full context)
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Leopold laments that private landowners do little to conserve their own land. He has observed that... (full context)
Part III: Natural History
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From the 1840s to when Leopold wrote his book in the 1940s, farmers in Wisconsin happily chopped down tamarack trees for... (full context)
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Leopold is unimpressed with contemporary formal education. Instead, he is impressed by a chemist who taught... (full context)
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Leopold feels the education system does not encourage this kind of amateur passion project. Instead, it... (full context)
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Leopold imagines a hypothetical student, who is book smart, but unable to answer questions about a... (full context)
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Leopold knows it will be impossible for people to fully harmonize with the land, but he... (full context)
Part III: Wildlife in American Culture
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Leopold believes it is important for people in society to remember the “wild rootage” of their... (full context)
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Expanding on the concept of sportsmanship, Leopold looks back to an archetypical pioneer, the original sportsman. These pioneers traveled lightly, and adhered... (full context)
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Leopold admits that while gadgets often replace sportsmanship, it is possible for both to coexist. He... (full context)
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Still, Leopold has noticed an overall increase in mechanization, and a decrease in the cultural values (like... (full context)
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Leopold proposes a reframing of what a “sport” can be. He suggests that more people should... (full context)
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Leopold points out that although behavior patterns in large populations of animals is observable, individual animals... (full context)
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Leopold ends the chapter by reminding the reader that wildlife and nature were once interesting enough... (full context)
Part III: The Deer Swath
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Leopold believes there are four types of outdoorsmen: “deer hunters, duck hunters, bird hunters, and non-hunters.”... (full context)
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Leopold has also observed a fifth category of hunter, a person who reads signs left behind... (full context)
Part III: Goose Music
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Leopold observes how golf went from being a sport for the rich to a sport accessible... (full context)
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Leopold argues that anyone who cannot enjoy nature, either by hunting in it, or photographing it,... (full context)
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The wilderness is being destroyed, and Leopold explains that the destruction of the wilderness destroys this inalienable right to experience it. Nothing... (full context)
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Leopold looks to his notes and recalls that he has seen over a thousand geese during... (full context)
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Leopold reiterates that he thinks hunting and fishing are natural, instinctual, and important activities. They are... (full context)
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Leopold concludes the chapter by imagining a future where his three sons, whom he hopes will... (full context)
Part IV: The Land Ethic
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Leopold proposes the construction of an ecological ethic. This would distinguish between “social” and “anti-social conduct,”... (full context)
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Leopold gives a brief history of ethics. At first, ethics concerned behavior between individual people. Eventually... (full context)
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Leopold points out that, at present, society’s relationship with the land is economical, not ethical. However,... (full context)
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Leopold admits that a land ethic can’t prevent the use or alteration of the land, but... (full context)
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Leopold criticizes what he sees as an educated view that the earth exists to be exploited... (full context)
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Leopold discusses the European settlement of the Mississippi Valley, which taxed the land in such a... (full context)
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Leopold contrasts the Europeans’ treatment of the American landscapes with the Pueblo Indians’ treatment of the... (full context)
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Leopold hopes “the concept of land as a community” will soon “penetrate our intellectual life.” He... (full context)
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Leopold shares a story about farmers in Wisconsin who were bribed into working to preserve the... (full context)
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Leopold worries, “in our attempt to make conservation easy, we have made it trivial.” (full context)
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Leopold categorizes various substitutes for the land ethic he has observed. Economic substitutes are risky because... (full context)
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...they do not sell for a lot of money, or because they grow too slowly. Leopold contrasts this with Europe, where some “valueless” trees have been found to enhance the soil... (full context)
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Leopold also points out that certain ecosystems, like marshes, bogs, dunes, and deserts, are seen as... (full context)
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Leopold observes that American conservation gives much responsibility to the government. Leopold wonders if this is... (full context)
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Leopold believes humans can “be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand,... (full context)
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...the land pyramid was simpler, but as more species have evolved it has gotten higher. Leopold argues that “the trend of evolution” is to “diversify the biota,” and therefore extend the... (full context)
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Leopold lists a few changes humankind has brought to the land pyramid, including the elimination of... (full context)
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In summary, Leopold proposes that looking at “land as an energy circuit” is useful for three reasons: first,... (full context)
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Leopold has two primary questions: can the land adjust to manmade changes; and can the changes... (full context)
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Leopold believes people who have yet to develop a land ethic can view the land in... (full context)
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Leopold thinks it is essential that people love, respect, and admire the land. Only then can... (full context)
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Leopold’s proposed solution is to stop thinking about land-use as an economic issue. Instead, questions about... (full context)
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Leopold hopes that a land ethic can and will develop in America. Although he has set... (full context)
Part IV: Wilderness
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Leopold defines wilderness as the diverse “raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact... (full context)
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Leopold explains that this chapter is a plea to preserve the last bits of wilderness left... (full context)
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Much of the American wilderness has already been destroyed. Leopold gives a list of wilderness areas that have been lost, but compares them to similar... (full context)
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In the Rocky Mountains, many areas have been designated National Forests and National Parks. Leopold is especially interested in National Forests, because they are closed to roads, hotels, and other... (full context)
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Leopold suggests that conflict between humans and animals is an essential part of human culture, and... (full context)
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...intervened in the health of their own species, and in the health of the land. Leopold judges human intervention on the land to be unsuccessful, as most human interventions have only... (full context)
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Leopold complains that people are happy to treat only symptoms of larger environmental diseases—for instance, poisoning... (full context)
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Leopold is upset that National Parks, and even the surrounding National Forests, are often too small... (full context)
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...to save the wilderness, requires both “a long view of conservation, and a historical perspective.” Leopold hopes that with improved education, more citizens will understand the ways in which “relics” of... (full context)
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Leopold points out that “wilderness is a resource which can shrink but not grow.” Although there... (full context)
Part IV: Conservation Esthetic
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Leopold observes that people are more passionate about their recreation than they are about nearly anything... (full context)
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...buy land in a recreational area. However, there is also an ethical component to recreation. Leopold has observed the evolution of “outdoor manners,” and a code of sportsmanlike conduct. (full context)
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Leopold understands that humans receive joy from interactions with nature. However, he also sees that there... (full context)
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Leopold breaks down the idea of recreation into five components. First he looks at the act... (full context)
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The second enjoyable aspect of recreation is “the feeling of isolation in nature.” Leopold defines a wilderness area as being without roads except on the borders. Ironically, extending roads... (full context)
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Leopold contrasts the idea of wilderness as a place to isolate oneself with the idea that... (full context)
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...ecology (how the environment has maintained itself). Although this field is in its early stages, Leopold hopes nature study will help “the mass-mind towards perception.”  (full context)
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Leopold notes that recreation “is not the outdoors, but our reaction to it.” A person’s experience... (full context)
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Leopold believes that people can learn to appreciate nature anywhere. Weeds growing in the city, grasses... (full context)
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The fifth component of recreation is husbandry. This includes any management of the land. Leopold argues that the government should give land to its citizens to manage, as opposed to... (full context)
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Leopold introduces the idea that trophy hunters are “the caveman reborn.” He does not criticize trophy... (full context)
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Leopold concludes his book by stating that recreational development should not focus on making wilderness more... (full context)