Curt MeineCenter for Humans and Nature and Aldo Leopold Foundation
Curt Meine is a Senior fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and the Aldo Leopold Foundation; a Research Associate with the International Crane Foundation; and an Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Curt does research in Environmental and Conservation History, Forestry, History of Science and Botany. his most recent book is "The Driftless Reader".
Research Items (61)
- Jul 2018
- A Sustainable Philosophy—The Work of Bryan Norton
In a wide-ranging interview conducted in July 2016, Bryan Norton reviewed his career path and contributions to environmental ethics and policy over more than four decades. Norton discusses the origins of his interest in environmental philosophy; the emergence and evolution of environmental ethics; his engagement with the ideas of Aldo Leopold and Baird Callicott; his work as an applied ethicist in the policy arena; his exploration of the core concepts of sustainability, convergence, and ecosystem service in his thinking; and future directions in environmental ethics and policy.
The diminishing of the Earth's biological diversity due to human activity, and in particular the accelerated rate of species extinctions, is among the critical environmental trends that mark this as an unprecedented era in human history. The human influence on genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity and on the Earth system as a whole has intensified since the mid-1900s. Definitions of, and approaches to, conservation have evolved in response. This process now includes critical reexamination of the ethical foundations of conservation and unresolved visions for its future trajectory.
The practice of ecological restoration is challenged by accelerating rates and expanding scales of anthropogenic ecosystem change. The concept of "novel ecosystems" has become a focal point of intramural debate, leading restoration practitioners and researchers to reject, defend, revise, and reframe prior premises and goals. In a world of rapid environmental change, restoration can be seen, depending on one's perspective, as more necessary than ever, or as essentially futile. By revisiting restoration's history and defining a more nuanced approach to the realities of ecosystem change, we may be able to find space for reconciliation, or at least accommodation, of these divergent views. Aldo Leopold recognized as early as the 1930s that human impacts on the "biotic community" are pervasive; that "wilderness is a relative condition"; that conservationists must recognize "the dynamics of 'the land's' past history and probable future." At the same time, he pursued restoration as a necessary new dimension of conservation and proposed his "land ethic" as "a mode of guidance for meeting ecological situations so new or intricate" that society had not yet evolved an effective ethical response. Since Leopold's generation, the "great acceleration" in global environmental change has altered the context in which we assess the promise and potential of restoration. It has only deepened, however, the need for conservation science, policy, ethics, and practice to engender resilient landscapes. Ecological restoration remains an essential means of doing so, albeit with redefined aims and methods.
Extinction deeply colors the way we think about conservation and the role of humans in nature. It is easy to overlook how recently, in fact, it has entered our consciousness. Only in the last two centuries has science sought to critically study life's origins, development, and diversification. Only in the last several generations have we identified and calibrated life's five major extinction events and speculated on their causes and effects. And only in recent decades have we come to appreciate the still-unfolding fate of life's diversity under the increasing influence of humanity. The story of extinction has continually changed as this monumental process of interdisciplinary synthesis and imagination has unfolded. Geology, paleontology, taxonomy, biogeography, and evolutionary biology have allowed us to comprehend the deep temporal and broad spatial dynamics of the extinction story. Archaeology, cultural anthropology, and environmental and economic history have illuminated the role of humans in altering the trajectory of species, landscapes, and ecosystems over the millennia. Ecology, genetics, population biology, and conservation biology have revealed the more recent patterns in life's vulnerability and resilience. As a phenomenon, extinction is as old as life itself. As a story shaping our consciousness, values, and intentions, it is still new. And it is uncomfortable.
Rapid and ongoing change creates novelty in ecosystems everywhere, both when comparing contemporary systems to their historical baselines, and predicted future systems to the present. However, the level of novelty varies greatly among places. Here we propose a formal and quantifiable definition of abiotic and biotic novelty in ecosystems, map abiotic novelty globally, and discuss the implications of novelty for the science of ecology and for biodiversity conservation. We define novelty as the degree of dissimilarity of a system, measured in one or more dimensions relative to a reference baseline, usually defined as either the present or a time window in the past. In this conceptualization, novelty varies in degree, it is multidimensional, can be measured, and requires a temporal and spatial reference. This definition moves beyond prior categorical definitions of novel ecosystems, and does not include human agency, self-perpetuation, or irreversibility as criteria. Our global assessment of novelty was based on abiotic factors (temperature, precipitation, and nitrogen deposition) plus human population, and shows that there are already large areas with high novelty today relative to the early 20th century, and that there will even be more such areas by 2050. Interestingly, the places that are most novel are often not the places where absolute changes are largest; highlighting that novelty is inherently different from change. For the ecological sciences, highly novel ecosystems present new opportunities to test ecological theories, but also challenge the predictive ability of ecological models and their validation. For biodiversity conservation, increasing novelty presents some opportunities, but largely challenges. Conservation action is necessary along the entire continuum of novelty, by redoubling efforts to protect areas where novelty is low, identifying conservation opportunities where novelty is high, developing flexible yet strong regulations and policies, and establishing long-term experiments to test management approaches. Meeting the challenge of novelty will require advances in the science of ecology, and new and creative conservation approaches.
Posted on USGS website http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/lessons-learned-from-a-legend-luna-leopolds-view-of-the-river/
Question - What are the criteria to be consider from us to say that an ecosystem is healthy or not?
Aldo Leopold's concept of "land health" is helpful in this context. In a 1944 essay he offered this: "Conservation is a state of health in the land. The land consists of soil, water, plants, and animals, but health is more than a sufficiency of these components. It is a state of vigorous self-renewal in each of them, and in all collectively. Such collective functioning of interdependent parts for the maintenance of the whole is characteristic of an organism. In this sense [emphasis added] land is an organism, and conservation deals with its functional integrity, or health."
One of the earliest formal efforts of collaborative conservation—called "cooperative conservation" at the time—began in the 1930s in Coon Valley, Wisconsin. • As many as 418 private farming families worked with researchers and agency personnel to restore soils, watercourses, forest cover, wildlife habi-tat, and recreational value to 40,000 acres of land degraded by poor farming practices. • The cooperative effort continues today; the region has become a hub for sustainably produced and organic products, including the highly successful business, Organic Valley. Intentional community-based efforts toward the collaborative conserva-tion of working landscapes in the United States are not a recent phenom-enon. Although watershed councils in the Pacific Northwest and rancher-environmentalist alliances in the Southwest both emerged in the early 1990s, perhaps the earliest formally organized effort to pursue integrated, landscape-level conservation and restoration of a food-producing watershed began in Coon Valley, Wisconsin in 1934. 1 The same year that Aldo Leopold began to offer the first game management courses in any American univer-sity, he also became involved as an adviser to the first watershed-scale soil conservation demonstration area designated by the U.S. Soil Erosion Service (now the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service). 2 Spotlight 4.1 hiStoric PreceDentS to coLLaBoratiVe conSerVation in Working LanDScaPeS The"cooperative"Initiative,1934
s aesthetically challenged seal and prescient motto By Curt Meine Photo ©Andrea Lipinski On March 4, 1837, the Illinois legisla-ture approved Chicago's proposal for incorporation, and the lakeside vil-lage of 4,170 souls officially became a city. That June, the city adopted its official seal, one of those wonderfully cluttered montages of symbols that nineteenth-century Americans did so well: in the center, a sheaf of wheat against a federal shield of red, white, and blue, indicative of the Midwest's fruitful land; to one side, a tomahawk-wielding figure representing the native inhabitants of the land; on the other side, a ship (presumably bearing Euro-pean immigrants) heaving across Lake Michigan toward its western shore; and, floating overhead, a sleeping babe borne on a cloud and representing the newborn city reposing in peace and purity. The cloud was later upgraded to a large shell, Chicago being (natch) the pearl of the great Lakes. At the bottom of the seal, a rib-bon is inscribed with the city's motto: "URBS IN HORTO," Latin for "City in a garden." One interpretation holds that this reflected an appeal from the city's first mayor, William Ogden. Shortly after he became mayor in those busy months of 1837, the nation fell into a financial panic. Ogden paid off the city's debts by taking out personal loans and paying the bills. He also encouraged his fellow Chicagoans to plant their own gardens in the city's open plots and peripheral fields—a sort of frontier hedge fund! A more widely held interpretation is that the motto captured the vital vision of the city's founders, of their fair new city held in the fresh bosom of its rich, supporting hinterlands. Did they see those hortus lands beyond the city boundaries as Illinois tallgrass prai-rie flowering forth with its 850 species of native plants, rife with mammals large and small, birds and reptiles, frogs and bugs, with rich soils and abundant freshwaters? Or did they see those lands as what they might, and did, become:
Modern efforts to conserve biodiversity have their foundations in older traditions of resource management and nature protection. This article traces the history of the conservation movement, focusing on those events and patterns that led to the emergence of biodiversity conservation from earlier utilitarian and preservation-oriented approaches. The evolution of the movement reflects the dynamic interplay of conservation science, philosophy, policy, and practice in achieving goals that have themselves been subject to change. Because the conservation movement continues to redefine itself, this article concludes with a consideration of key themes from recent history.
Creative interdisciplinary thinkers in the history of both ecology and ethics have ventured beyond their disciplinary boundaries and into the zone where they overlap. Prominent among these was Aldo Leopold. While serving as president of the Ecological Society of America in 1947, Leopold called for a “land ethic” that integrated insights from ecology, history, ethics, and aesthetics. Prompted especially by developments in science and technology following World War II, Leopold was part of a broader community of contemporaries concerned with these portentous changes. In retrospect, we can see Leopold’s special contribution as a defining moment in the discourse connecting conservation science, ethics, policy, and practice. That discourse continues, especially in emerging interdisciplinary fields, even as our critical environmental concerns renders the need for integrated thinking ever more apparent and immediate.
Excerpt This summer, the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) invited me to deliver the keynote lecture at its international conference in Fort Worth, Texas. (The full text of the 2012 Pritchard Lecture is available on the SWCS Web site at http://www.swcs.org/documents/filelibrary/12ac/2012_Meine_Pritchard_Lecture_CAFD0AA4FD40F.pdf.) I felt especially honored given the theme of the conference: “Choosing Conservation: Considering Ecology, Economics, and Ethics.” I began my remarks by thanking the SWCS for its courage in highlighting that theme. It is no small challenge to explore the complex connections among these “three Es.” To do so is to ask fundamental and often uncomfortable questions of ourselves. It is so much easier to ignore the questions or to fall back on conventional answers. The theme could not be more timely. To be reminded of that, all one had to do was step outside the conference center in Fort Worth. As in much of the continental United States, it was very hot and dry outside. On the way to the conference, one witnessed it. The effects of extreme heat and drought were evident across the land—in countless stressed farms and desiccated corn fields, in cottonwood leaves turned prematurely yellow, in ponds at half capacity and rivers of sand…
In this chapter, Curt Meine introduces the discipline by tracing its history. He also highlights the inter-disciplinary nature of conservation science. Conservation biology emerged in the mid-1980s as a new field focused on understanding, protecting, and perpetuating biological diversity at all scales and all levels of biological organization. Conservation biology has deep roots in the growth of biology over several centuries, but its emergence reflects more recent developments in an array of biological sciences (ecology, genetics, evolutionary biology, etc.) and natural resource management fields (forestry, wildlife and fisheries management, etc.). Conservation biology was conceived as a "mission-oriented" field based in the biological sciences, but with an explicit interdisciplinary approach that incorporated insights from the social sciences, humanities, and ethics. Since its founding, conservation biology has: (i) greatly elaborated its research agenda; (ii) built stronger connections with other fields and disciplines; (iii) extended its reach especially into aquatic and marine environments; (iv) developed its professional capacity for training, research, and field application; (v) become an increasingly international field; and (vi) become increasingly active at the interface of conservation science and policy.
The history of wolf research and conservation in the upper Great Lakes is only one chapter in the epic story of evolving relationships between people and land in North America. It is, however, an especially significant chapter. The rapid pace of Euro- American settlement and environmental transformation from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s led (among other impacts) to the near extirpation of the wolf from the region. During this same period, however, the American conservation movement arose in response to reckless resource exploitation. Shifts in conservation science, policy, and philosophy allowed the wolf to be understood within a broader ecological and ethical framework, preparing the way for the recent recovery of the species in the region. In this way, the fate of the wolf in the Great Lakes has reflected broader trends in the history of conservation. Since its historic low point in the mid-1900s, the wolf population of the Great Lakes region has recovered due to two overriding factors: ecological conditions of the landscape have been conducive to the population s growth and expansion; and the knowledge, values, and actions of the region s people have provided space on the ground and within our human society for such growth and expansion to occur. The natural and cultural history of wolves in North America and around the world has been well told in both popular and professional publications (e.g., Lopez 1978 ; Mech and Boitani 2003). Other chapters in this volume provide accounts of the history of wolves in the Great Lakes states. This chapter provides a brief overview of early wolf research and conservation efforts in the region.
Conservation biology emerged in the mid-1980s, drawing on established disciplines and integrating them in pursuit of a coherent goal: the protection and perpetuation of the Earth's biological diversity. Opportunistic in its borrowing and application of knowledge, conservation biology had its roots within the established biological sciences and resource management disciplines but has continually incorporated insights from the empirical experience of resource managers, from the social sciences and humanities, and from diverse cultural sources. The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) has represented the field's core constituency, while expanding that constituency in keeping with the field's integrative spirit. Conservation Biology has served as SCB's flagship publication, promoting research, dialog, debate, and application of the field's essential concepts. Over the last 20 years the field, SCB, and the journal have evolved to meet changing conservation needs, to explore gaps in our knowledge base, to incorporate new information from related fields, to build professional capacity, and to provide expanded opportunities for international participation. In turn, the field, SCB, and journal have prompted change in related fields, organizations, and publications. In its dedication to advancing the scientific foundations of biodiversity conservation and placing that science at the service of society in a world whose variety, wildness, and beauty we care for conservation biology represents both a continuation and radical reconfiguration of the traditional relationship between science and conservation.
Aldo Leopold's Report on Huron Mountain Club, published privately in 1938, represented a novel synthesis of emerging ideas in forestry, wildlife ecology, protected area design, and landscape-scale planning. Examination of this little-known report provides new insight into the evolution of Leopold's thinking and the development of applied conservation science. The report emerged at a time when insights from scientific ecology were beginning to alter utilitarian and preservationist approaches to conservation and resource management in North America. In his report Leopold integrated ideas from several disciplines, producing a plan that emphasized the establishment of core and buffer zones in protected areas, reduction of overabundant native species, relaxation of predator control policies, and integration of research in the management of protected areas.
Der US-amerikanische Naturschützer, Ökologe und Autor Aldo Leopold forderte seine Zeitgenossen dazu auf, die philosophischen Grundlagen des Naturschutzes zu überdenken. Er lehnte es ab, die Werte der Nützlichkeit, der Ästhetik und der Ethik strikt voneinander zu trennen. Vielmehr sah er die Möglichkeit, diese Werte besser in Einklang zu bringen, geleitet von einer "Landethik". Diese betont unse-re gesellschaftliche und individuelle Verantwortung für die Gesundheit des Lan-des als einer Gemeinschaft, die Böden, Gewässer, Pflanzen, Tiere und Menschen umfasst. Die Zusammenführung dieser Werte und die Formierung der Landethik können anhand von Leopolds Texten über drei während seiner gesamten Lauf-bahn dominante Themen nachvollzogen werden: Wildtiermanagement, Schutz von Wildnisgebieten und Naturschutzphilosophie. The American conservationist, ecologist, and writer Aldo Leopold challenged his contemporaries to rethink conservation's philosophical foundations. Leopold re-jected the strict separation of utilitarian, aesthetic and moral values. He saw the potential for more harmonious integration of these values, guided by a "land ethic" that stressed our social and individual responsibility for the health of the land as a community that included soils, waters, plants, animals, and people. This integration of values and the emergence of the land ethic can be traced in Leopold's writings on three dominant themes throughout his career: wildlife management, wildland protection, and conservation philosophy.
- Jan 2004
- Island Press
The last fifteen years have been a period of dramatic change, both in the world at large and within the fields of ecology and conservation. The end of the Cold War, the dot-com boom and bust, the globalizing economy, and the attacks of September 11, among other events and trends, have reshaped our worldview and the political environment in which we find ourselves. At the same time, emerging knowledge, needs, and opportunities have led to a rapid evolution in our understanding of the scientific foundations and social context of conservation. Correction Lines is a new collection of essays from one of our most thoughtful and eloquent writers on conservation, putting these recent changes into perspective and exploring the questions they raise about the past, present, and future of the conservation movement. The essays explore interrelated themes: the relationship between biological and social dimensions; the historic tension between utilitarian and preservationist approaches; the integration of varied cultural perspectives; the enduring legacy of Aldo Leopold; the contrasts and continuities between conservation and environmentalism; the importance of political reform; and the need to "retool" conservation to address twentyfirst-century realities. Collectively the essays assert that we have reached a critical juncture in conservation-a "correction line" of sorts. Correction Lines argues that we need a more coherent and comprehensive account of the past if we are to understand our present circumstances and move forward under unprecedented conditions. Meine brings together a deep sense of history with powerful language and compelling imagery, yielding new insights into the origins and development of contemporary conservation. Correction Lines will help us think more clearly about the forces that have changed, and are changing, conservation, and inspire us to address current realities and future needs.
Since the beginning of my tenure as associate editor for book reviews, I have received a great many books. This wealth of prose, poetry, and scientific exposition landing in my lap has seemed a bit like manna from heaven, given my bibliophilic predisposition. I've done my best to squelch feelings of self-conscious guilt (this is too good to be true) and, instead, have worked assiduously to catalogue at least 750 books, secure approximately 125 reviewers, and publish about 100 book reviews to date. Within the last few years, however, I have received a number of biographies of various stripes.
Beilfuss, R.D., Meine, C.D., & Archibald, F.W. 2000. The World Crane Action Plan: implications for conservation of cranes and wetlands in Africa. Ostrich 71 (1 & 2): 227. The IUCN Species Survival Commission recently published The Cranes: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Prepared over the past three years by the IUCN Crane Specialist Group, the document reviews the status of the world's cranes (Family: Gruidae) and their habitats, summarises recent crane conservation actions, and specifies priority measures for the future. Eleven of the 15 crane species are now proposed for inclusion on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals, and several subspecies and populations are critically endangered. Africa supports six species of cranes in 39 countries. The Black Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina, national bird of Nigeria, is resident in western and central Africa. The Grey Crowned Crane B. regulorum, national bird of Uganda, spans eastern and southern Africa. The Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculahrs, largest and. rarest of Africa's cranes, ranges from Ethiopia to South Africa. The Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus, national bird of South Africa, is endemic to South Africa and Namibia. The Demoiselle Crane A. Virgo and Eurasian Crane Grus grus are winter visitors. Cranes have been the focus of intensive captive propagation and reintroduction programs as well as extensive habitat protection efforts. They are also excellent umbrella species for ecosystem-level conservation efforts. Wetlands that provide a home for cranes include the floodplains of the great river systems of Africa, such as Kafue Flats and Zambezi Delta of the Zambezi River system, the Okavango River Delta, the Sudd of the Upper Nile River, the Bangweulu Basin and swamps of the Zaire River system, the Senegal River Delta, and the Inner Niger River Delta, and the wetlands of Lake Chad. Small, isolated wetlands provide vital breeding habitat. This presentation will provide an overview of the action plan for those interested in cranes in particular, as well as those working in ecosystems and regions where cranes occur.
- Jan 2000
For the first time, the most important quotations of the great conservationist Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, are gathered in one volume. From conservation education to wildlife ecology, from wilderness protection to soil and water conservation, the writings of Aldo Leopold continue to have profound influence on those seeking to understand the earth and its care. Leopold biographer Curt Meine and noted conservation biologist Richard Knight have assembled this comprehensive collection of quotations from Leopoldâs extensive and diverse writings, selected and organized to capture the richness and depth of the North American conservation movement. Prominent biologists, conservationists, historians, and philosophers provide introductory commentaries describing Leopoldâs contributions in varied fields and reflecting upon the significance of his work today. Contributors: J. Baird Callicott David Ehrenfeld Susan L. Flader Eric T. Freyfogle Wes Jackson Paul W. Johnson Joni L. Kinsey Richard L. Knight Gary K. Meffe Curt Meine Gary Paul Nabhan Richard Nelson Bryan G. Norton David W. Orr Edwin P. Pister Donald Snow Stanley A. Temple Jack Ward Thomas Charles Wilkinson Terry Tempest Williams Donald Worster Joy B. Zedler
CURT MEINE is a research associate with the International Crane Foundation. Curt received a B.A. in English and History from DePaul University and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Land Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has served as a consultant to many local, national, and international conservation agencies and organizations, and he has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is author of the biography Aldo Leopold: Hit Life and Work (1988), co-compiler (with George W. Archibald) of The Cranej: Staluj Surrey ant) Congélation Action Plan (1996), editor of Wallace Slegncr and the Continental VLiion: Evay.i on Literature, Hutory, and Landscape (1997), and co-editor (with Richard L. Knight) of the forthcoming volume The Essential Aldo Leopold: qnotationj and commentaries. He has contributed to a wide variety of periodicals, journals, and books and currently serves on the boards of editors of Conservation Biology and Environmental Ethics, and on the Board of Governors of the Society for Conservation Biology.
- Jan 1998
- Island Press
Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) was, in the words of historian T. H. Watkins, "a walking tower of American letters." Winner of the Pulitzer prize and the National Book Award for fiction, founder of the Stanford Writing Program, recipient of three Guggenheim fellowships and innumerable honorary degrees, Stegner was both a brilliant writer and an exceptional teacher. Wallace Stegner and the Continental Vision brings together leading literary critics, historians, legal scholars, geographers, scientists, and others to present a multifaceted exploration of Stegner's work and its impact, and a thought-provoking examination of his life. Contributors consider Stegner as writer, as historian, and as conservationist, discussing his place in the American literary tradition, his integral role in shaping how Americans relate to the land, and his impact on their own personal lives and careers. They present an eclectic mix of viewpoints as they explore aspects of Stegner's work that they find most intriguing, inspiring, and provocative.