Conference PaperPDF Available

“Goose Music: Variations on a Theme by Aldo Leopold.”

  • Center for Humans and Nature and Aldo Leopold Foundation
CURT D. MEINE, International Crane Foundation, E-11376 Shady Lane Road, Box 447, Baraboo, WI
53913, USA
Key words: Aldo Leopold, Branta canadensis, Canada geese.
I thank all of you, and especially the symposium
organizers, for inviting me to be with you today. Much
of my time in recent years has been devoted to cranes
and crane conservation, so as a member of the “Crane
Clan,” I thank all the members of the “Goose Clan” for
allowing me to join you! I hasten to say that I am not
a goose expert. Most of what I know about Branta
canadensis (Canada geese), I have absorbed through
osmosis, by hanging out with goose experts in goose
places. I have appreciated the opportunity to catch up
with the goose world while preparing for this occasion.
I thank you especially for the perfect timing and
location of this symposium. I would note, fi rst, the
important anniversary that we have just recognized.
Some people here, I imagine, were at Pelican Island in
Florida last week to celebrate the 100th anniversary of
the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System. International
tensions have overshadowed the event, but it was 100
years ago that Theodore Roosevelt designated Pelican
Island as the nation’s fi rst federal wildlife refuge. Such
moments remind us that we stand, always, on the shoul-
ders of those who came before us: Roosevelt, Paul Krue-
gel, “Ding” Darling, J. Clark Salyer, Ira Gabrielson, and
so many others, both celebrated and obscure. These
people built the refuge system that we all benefi t from
today. And of course we all recognize the system’s logo:
the “blue goose.” So, congratulations and thank you to
all our friends in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on
this anniversary. May the century ahead be as fruitful
as the one behind us.
You have also come to Madison at the high
point in this year’s migration. It has been really quite
astounding here over the last few days. All the fl ocks
had been bottled up in Indiana and Illinois. Then the
weather warmed, the winds switched, the gates opened
up, and geese and ducks and cranes and blackbirds, and
everything else it seems, have been pouring north in
great waves.
Finally, if you look out the windows of the con-
vention center here, you’ll see that we are in mid-thaw;
Lake Monona is half-open. The thaw provides me with
the perfect opportunity to cite several appropriate pas-
sages from Aldo Leopold’s works. They come, not sur-
prisingly, from the essay “The Geese Return” in A Sand
County Almanac (Leopold 1949). That essay begins
with Leopold’s evocative sentence: “One swallow does
not make a summer, but one skein of geese cleaving
the murk of a March thaw, is the spring” (Leopold
1949:18). For so many of us in Wisconsin or, I suspect,
most any place that welcomes geese north in the spring,
that line captures precisely that moment when one sees
or hears the fi rst migrating geese after a long winter.
The ending of “The Geese Return” is among my
favorite passages in all of Leopold’s writing. It seems
especially fi tting this day. I am both pleased and sad-
dened to say that. Leopold writes: “It is an irony of
history that the great powers should have discovered
the unity of nations at Cairo in 1943. The geese of
the world have had that notion for a longer time,
and each March they stake their lives on its essential
truth” (Leopold 1949:22-23). Until now, I had never
tried to identify the historical episode to which Leopold
referred. What happened in Cairo in 1943 to demon-
strate “the unity of nations”? In fact, it was in Novem-
ber 1943 that Winston Churchill, Chang Kai-shek, and
Franklin Roosevelt gathered in Cairo to discuss the
course of the war and confer on plans for the future of
East Asia and Europe.
A careful reader of Aldo Leopold’s writing from
these years will notice that it was often tinged by such
awareness of world events. In “The Geese Return,” he
seized upon geese as a symbol of the essential unity
of the nations of the earth, over and above the human
political confl icts that so often divide them. As a
wildlife ecologist, Leopold obviously appreciated those
natural connections. In the closing passages of the
essay, he painted a verbal picture of the unifi ed world
that migrating geese surveyed: “In the beginning there
was only the unity of the Ice Sheet. Then followed the
unity of the March thaw, and the northward hegira
of the international geese. Every March since the
Pleistocene, the geese have honked unity from China
Sea to Siberian Steppe, from Euphrates to Volga, from
Nine to Murmansk, from Lincolnshire to Spitsbergen.
Every March since the Pleistocene, the geese have
honked unity from Currituck to Labrador, Matamus-
keet to Ungava, Horseshoe Lake to Hudson’s Bay,
Avery Island to Baffi n Land, Panhandle to MacKenzie,
Sacramento to Yukon.
By this international commerce of geese, the
waste corn of Illinois is carried through the clouds of
the Arctic tundras, there to combine with the waste
sunlight of a nightless June to grow goslings for all the
lands between. And in this annual barter of food for
light, and winter warmth for summer solitude, the
whole continent receives as net profi t a wild poem
dropped from murky skies upon the muds of March”
(Leopold 1949:23).
I have always found great calm in these lines.
Leopold’s use of the word “muds” must certainly rank
among the most poetic uses of the word in literature!
Perhaps that is what inspiration is all about: using
context to fi nd the glor y in the mundane. The con-
nectivity across the landscape that Leopold focuses
on is something that all of us who work to conserve
migrating creatures think about simply as a matter of
course. Conservationists throughout history have had
to deal with the disparity between the natural reality
of wildlife distribution and movement, and the human
reality of political boundaries (Knight and Landres
1998). Standing as we do now, apparently on the brink
of international confl ict, we see again the tragic incon-
gruity of those realities.
From this somber starting point, we can explore
the many ways in which geese passed through Aldo
Leopold’s life. Such connections are displayed wonder-
fully in the original 1949 cover of A Sand County Alma-
nac (Leopold 1949), which featured Charles Schwartz’s
drawing of 3 Canada geese. Geese have thus been
intimately connected to our image of Leopold, and to
our reading of this book that has shaped conservation
so powerfully for more than half a century. With that
image in mind, we can wander through Leopold’s life
with an ear cocked for the sound of geese.
There are many entry points for exploring
Leopold’s life and work. Waterfowl, and geese in
particular, offer an especially apt one. We start where
Leopold started. He was born at the mid-point of the
Mississippi Flyway, in Burlington, Iowa, in 1887. The
closing decades of the 1800s were, of course, a time of
rank resource exploitation across the continent. Recall
the unprecedented losses of the late 1800s: the passen-
ger pigeons of the eastern United States, the white pine
of the upper Great Lakes, the bison herds of the high
plains. And, these were years of decimation as well
for the continent’s waterfowl populations as market
hunters took their toll. Years later, in his essay “Good
Oak,” Leopold used historic records to make note of the
era’s destruction: market hunters taking 6,000 ducks in
1 season near Chicago; 2 brothers shooting 210 blue-
winged teal in 1 day (Leopold 1949:14-15). In short,
Aldo Leopold was born in a time and place of ruined
Aldo Leopold gained his early love of waterfowl,
waterfowl hunting, and bird-watching in the fl ood-
plain of the Mississippi River near Burlington (Meine
1988). Many of his most signi cant boyhood experi-
ences occurred on the Illinois side of the river, at the
Crystal Lake Hunt Club, where he hunted as a boy with
his father and fi rst became entranced with waterfowl.
That relationship with waterfowl endured across his
entire life; one could easily write a book on this subject
alone. The best I can do today is focus on a few notable
Aldo was the oldest son in a family of 4 children.
His father, Carl Leopold, was an enthusiastic hunter and
a dedicated conservationist. Aldo would later dedicate
his book Game Management to his father as “a pioneer
in sportsmanship” (Leopold 1933:v). That phrase, as
I read it, contains a subtle paradox, one that embod-
ied the change in attitude that was occurring with the
rise of the conservation movement. Carl Leopold was
a pioneer in recognizing and demonstrating the ethi-
cal dimensions of the fi eld sports, and Aldo as a young
hunter absorbed that understanding in the Mississippi
River sloughs while watching the skies for waterfowl.
Leopold came of age during the height of the
Progressive Era conservation movement. Aldo was 13
years old when Theodore Roosevelt became president;
he was 21 when Roosevelt left the presidency. Leo-
pold’s formative years thus coincided with the emer-
gence of conservation in the United States under the
leadership of Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, John Muir, and
others. Leopold absorbed the Progressive Era commit-
ment to conserving populations of wildlife—although
one would have not used that word, but rather “game”
—for the public as a whole. That progressive commit-
ment carried Leopold down his educational path to an
eastern prep school (the Lawrenceville School in New
Jersey), to Yale, and fi nally to the Yale Forest School,
where he became a member of America’s fi rst genera-
tion of trained foresters and conservation scientists.
Leopold took his fi rst job in 1909 in the newly
established Apache National Forest in what was then
the Arizona Territory. For those in this new generation
of Forest Service rangers, game and wildlife conserva-
tion was really a sideline, if in fact they had any inter-
est in it at all. Aldo Leopold did have such an interest.
Even in his earliest work as an agency professional, he
was pursuing his own game conservation activities—
with little supervision except his own.
In 1911 Leopold moved over to the Carson
National Forest in the northern part of the New Mexico
Territory. From a waterfowl standpoint, this is signifi -
cant in that it brought Leopold into the Rio Grande
basin, where he would spend the next 15 years of his
life. Being situated on the Rio Grande would have a
critical impact on Leopold’s efforts to understand and
conserve waterfowl populations. He soon became
active in the public policy arena as an advocate for
reform of game laws, protection of game populations,
and establishment of game refuges. This was Leopold’s
own point of entry into the game conservation move-
ment. In “Forestry and Game Conservation” (Leopold
1918) one of his earliest publications, he surmised
that “the American people have already answered,
in a vigorous affi rmative, the question of whether
our game shall be conserved. Game conservation is
ready to enter its second stage, and even the layman
is beginning to ask how it shall be accomplished . . . .
The time has come for science to take the fl oor, pre-
pared to cope with the situation” (Leopold 1918:406).
And so, even while Leopold was busy attending to his
proper forester’s responsibilities, he sought to give
game management a higher profi le within the Forest
Leopold also had waterfowl on the mind during
his leisure time. During these years Leopold began
compiling the fi eld journals that he would maintain
until the end of his life. His journals offer a thorough
record not just of Aldo Leopold and his outdoor expe-
riences, but of the landscapes in which he worked.
Many of the entries from his years in the Southwest
involve waterfowl hunting along the Rio Grande with
his friends and growing family. He hunted often during
these years, and his favorite haunts were along the Rio
Grande just south of Albuquerque. His 2 oldest chil-
dren, Starker and Luna, often joined him, receiving their
rst hunting lessons, like their father before them, along
one of the continent’s great rivers.
One of the products of these Rio Grande adven-
tures was in fact the essay “Goose Music.” It was the
rst essay written of those that would later appear in A
Sand County Almanac (it was not included in the origi-
nal 1949 edition, but was added to the later paperback).
Leopold wrote “Goose Music” around 1924 or 1925. It
refl ects Aldo’s Rio Grande outings with his family: “To
conclude: I have congenital hunting fever and three
sons. As little tots, they spent their time playing with
my decoys and scouring vacant lots with wooden
guns. I hope to leave them good health, an educa-
tion, and possibly even a competence. But what are
they going to do with these things if there be no more
deer in the hills, and no more quail in the coverts?
No more snipe whistling in the meadow, no more
piping of widgeons and chattering of teal as darkness
covers the marshes; no more whistling of swift wings
when the morning star pales in the east? And when
the dawn-wind stirs through the ancient cottonwoods,
and the gray light steals down from the hills over the
old river sliding softly past its wide brown sandbars
—what if there be no more goose music? (Leopold
It is a powerful passage, and points to the impor-
tance of the Leopold family relationships as well—
though it must be said that Aldo’s early bias as a hunter
toward his sons falls awkwardly on our ears today; even-
tually, his daughters Nina and Estella hunted with their
father as well (and Nina would grow up to study geese
in southern Illinois). Interestingly, only in preparing for
this talk did it dawn on me that Leopold was describing
his experience along the middle Rio Grande, and was
likely referring not to Canada geese, but to snow geese
(Chen caerulescens)!
In addition to game protection, Leopold focused
during his early Forest Service years on several other
professional interests: timber management, watershed
protection and restoration, recreation, wilderness pro-
tection, and even what we would now call landscape
ecology, as he sought to understand the dynamics of
entire landscapes. He moved to Madison in 1924 to take
an appointment with the Forest Service’s Forest Prod-
ucts Laboratory. But even as he went to work at what
for him was a rather mundane desk job, he was laying
the foundation for the new fi eld of game management in
his “spare time.”
Leopold left the Forest Service in 1928. Over the
next 3 years he would undertake his landmark “Game
Survey of the North Central States” (Leopold 1931). The
nal report of the survey contained an entire chapter
on waterfowl. He did not much mention Canada geese
(or other species) specifi cally in that report, but rather
sought to paint the big picture of the status of water-
fowl populations and habitats. It should be noted that,
in the late 1920s, the mid-continent’s waterfowl were
again in a period of crisis. Populations were down, vast
acreages of wetlands were being drained, and neither
the conservation groups, nor the government agencies,
nor the general public were prepared to take effective
In his Game Survey report, Leopold summarized
the situation and described 10 “salient trends” affect-
ing waterfowl (Leopold 1931:200). This section of
Leopold’s report merits an entire presentation, but I will
touch on just a few of Leopold’s points. In what has
to be one of the earliest uses of the term “restoration”
in an ecological context, Leopold identi ed the rising
interest in the restoration of drained marshes. He cited
Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin (which was just then being
refl ooded), several lakes in Minnesota, and the Kanka-
kee Marshes in western Indiana as indicators of this
important new trend in conservation. The public, he
noted, was beginning to recognize that wetland drain-
age “is not always desirable, even from an economic
standpoint” (Leopold 1931:201). He referred to the
lack of effective enforcement of migratory game laws
and the impact on waterfowl populations. He noted
“the absence of comprehensive surveys and plans for
waterfowl conservation programs” (Leopold 1931:202).
In short, waterfowl conservation at this point in history
was starting from scratch. The fi eld of game manage-
ment still did not exist; the best Leopold could do was
summarize the contemporary state of understanding.
Leopold did so, in “American Game Policy” (Leo-
pold 1930), the policy statement that he took the lead in
formulating during these years. This statement became
the foundation for wildlife management activities in
the decades that followed. “Migratory game” was one
of the 4 main categories of wildlife discussed in that
document. In essence, the policy redirected American
wildlife conservation by advocating a new philosophy
based on habitat protection, management, and restora-
tion: “The set of ideas which served to string out the
remnants of the virgin game supply, to which many
of us feel an intense personal loyalty, seem to have
reached the limit of their effectiveness. Something
new must be done” (Leopold 1930:281).
That “something new” would come to be crystal-
lized in Leopold’s 1933 textbook, Game Management.
A scan of Game Management provides rich insights
into the early approach to waterfowl science and man-
agement. Thus, for example: “Counting the invisible
hosts of migratory waterfowl over a whole continent
by means of such an ingenious device as Lincoln’s
banding ratio is a feat which has excited either
incredulity or admiration, depending on the mental
capacity of the onlooker. . . . Continuous census is
the yardstick of success or failure in conservation”
(Leopold 1933:169-170). Rusch et al. (1995) would note
decades later that the winter surveys of Canada goose
populations that began in 1936-37 “represent probably
the oldest continuous index of migratory birds in
North America.”
Game Management appeared just as the dark
clouds of the Dust Bowl began to blow across the con-
tinent—another crisis for waterfowl populations and
habitats throughout the prairie pothole region of the
dry prairies and high plains. At this point, Leopold was
very active nationally in restoration projects and in the
effort to add important waterfowl areas to the national
wildlife refuge system (including Wisconsin’s own
Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and others in the
upper Midwest). In 1933, Leopold joined the University
of Wisconsin, where he would spend the remainder of
his career teaching, guiding research, and training a
new generation—a revolutionary generation, really—of
young wildlife managers. Many of them—Art Hawkins,
Harold Hanson, H. Albert Hochbaum, to name a few
—would become leaders in the study, management, and
conservation of waterfowl.
By the latter 1930s, Aldo Leopold was leading his
colleagues in wildlife management in still new direc-
tions, encouraging them to look beyond game species
to consider the broader spectrum of what we would
now call biodiversity, with special attention to rare and
threatened species. In 1936, for example, he pub-
lished his fi rst article devoted speci cally to the topic
of threatened species (Leopold 1936). I mention this
because it refl ects another fascinating aspect of the way
we think about Canada geese and the changes in wild-
life science and management that have occurred since
Leopold’s day.
Branta canadensis, as you all know, is distin-
guished by its diversity. Rusch et al. (1995) noted that
“Canada geese are . . . the most widely distributed
and phenotypically . . . variable species of birds in
North America . . . . The future of these diverse stocks
of Canada geese depends on information adequate
to permit simultaneous protection of rare forms . . . .”
The Canada goose is obviously an important game
species, but because of its remarkable degree of intra-
specifi c diversity, it stands as an interesting link in the
development of wildlife management and conservation
biology. The concerns that we now frame in terms
of biodiversity conservation—maintenance of genetic
diversity, species diversity, and the diversity of commu-
nities within larger landscapes—did not fully emerge
until the 1980s, when the term “biodiversity” came into
use. But one can identify important precedents, and
the Canada goose is an illuminating example. If there is
an enterprising graduate student out there looking for
a worthy research topic, this is your chance: propose
a thesis examining the interaction between the basic
science of Branta canadensisits evolutionary biol-
ogy, phylogenetics, biogeography, ecology—and the
management of the Canada goose as an important game
species. Such a thesis would help us to understand the
challenge of managing an unusually diverse species,
one that contains superabundant populations and sub-
species as well as rare and endangered subspecies.
But to pick up again our narrative thread . . . . In
the late 1930s, Aldo Leopold returned to Canada geese
as a literary object. An early version of the essay “The
Geese Return” appeared in April 1940 in the Wisconsin
Agriculturist and Farmer (Leopold 1940). Leopold
was keenly devoted to communicating with the state’s
farmers on wildlife conservation issues, and this article
was 1 of dozens that he produced with that audience in
mind during the late 1930s and 1940s (Leopold 1999).
These essays, in turn, formed the foundation for the col-
lection that eventually came together as A Sand County
Almanac (Leopold 1949). It was during these same
years that Leopold was working closely with Albert
Hochbaum in establishing the Delta Waterfowl Research
Station, a project that kept waterfowl management at
the forefront of Leopold’s thinking.
Not long before completing “The Geese Return,”
Leopold prepared the introduction for another land-
mark publication in the development of waterfowl biol-
ogy and management, Francis H. Kortright’s The Ducks,
Geese, and Swans of North America (Kortright 1943).
Kortright’s book is truly required reading for anyone
interested in waterfowl! Two generations of waterfowl
research have improved upon much of the science,
perhaps, but the tone and style of the book is irresist-
ible. In his introduction, Leopold pointed out the value
of breaking down the boundary between the sportsman
and the biologist: “I particularly endorse Mr. Kor-
tright’s thesis that the sportsman of the future must
get his satisfactions by enlarging himself rather than
by enlarging his bag . . . . Why is this species here?
Whence does it come, where does it go? What limits its
abundance? What was its role in history? What are its
prospects for survival? What peculiarities of habit and
habitat comprise its ‘standard of living?’ To always
seek but never quite achieve a bag-limit of answers
to such questions is the sport of the future” (Kortright
1943:v). The writing is vintage Leopold. These were
the questions Aldo had been asking himself since he
was a lad along the Mississippi River. The larger point
is one he made often in his writing: the need for con-
servationists of all stripes to combine the sportsman’s
passion for wild things with the scientist’s appreciation
of the complexity of the natural world.
I cannot resist sampling a bit of Kortright’s prose
as well. If Leopold’s writing was marked by its under-
stated restraint and command of the science, Kortright’s
was wonderfully over-the-top. This is Kortright on
Branta canadensis: “Sagacity, wariness, strength
and fi delity are characteristics of the Canada Goose
which, collectively, are possessed in the same degree
by no other bird. The Canada in many respects may
serve as a model for man” (Kortright 1943:84). For
Kortright, the species was the “grandest of all water-
fowl.” The passage is typical. Kortright plainly enjoyed
his subject, and Leopold plainly enjoyed Kortright’s
I do want to add a few thoughts about Aldo
Leopold and the problem of superabundant species. He
addressed the issue often in his career, in various con-
texts and in regard to various species—rodents, insect
pests, invasive plants, diseases. In the 1940s he faced
the issue most directly and personally. The problem of
burgeoning white-tailed deer populations in northern
Wisconsin precipitated a major deer management crisis
in the 1940s. The “deer problem” put Leopold in a very
diffi cult position politically as he advocated keeping the
deer herd in check (Flader 1974). He was reviled by
certain segments of the public, and the episode taught
even the battle-scarred Leopold a few new lessons
about the politics, as well as the biology, of wildlife
His writings on the theme during these years
demonstrate that he was well aware of the situation
that you will be talking about a great deal during this
symposium. In a 1944 article he noted: “Our internal
problems were heretofore problems of scarcity. The
last decade has now added new problems of excess.
Excess deer and elk are eating up many national for-
ests, national parks and other forest and range lands.
There is little evidence that the public is learning to
foresee and prevent these outbreaks, as distinguished
from attempting to cure them. When the time for
cure arrives, the damage to the habitat is already
completed” (Leopold 1944:28). In another essay
drafted around this time, he made the point even more
succinctly: “No species is inherently a pest, and any
species may become one” (Flader and Callicott 1991:
309). Leopold was thus well aware that management
goals and approaches can and should change as circum-
stances change.
Looking back over the dramatic increase in
Canada goose populations that began in the mid-1930s,
we should note that Leopold was writing about geese
just at the time they began to rebound from their his-
toric lows. In this context of recovering populations, it
is fascinating to consider that geese were much on Leo-
pold’s mind at the very end of his life. In fact, Leopold’s
last hours were spent watching and counting Canada
geese at the family’s “shack” along the Wisconsin River
north of Madison. The fi nal entries in Leopold’s fi eld
journals include his careful tallies of the numbers of
geese. It was springtime—he died on April 21, 1948
—and so the geese were returning. Every spring as
the geese returned, Leopold counted them. There was
nothing that pleased him more than relaxing with his
family at the end of the day while counting the geese as
they came into the marsh near the shack.
The day before he died Leopold actually counted
more geese than he had ever counted on any single day
of his life—more than 400. The geese left their mark
on him. His daughter Estella tells the story of her father
commenting to her at that point that one could not
expect to fi nd “any but remnants of wildlife nowadays”
—but that the geese along the river were an exception
(Meine 1988:518). Even at that relatively low point
in the continent’s populations of Canada geese, the
migrating populations had apparently recovered to the
point where they seemed to Leopold to be remarkably
abundant. It helped, too, that the shack was in a prime
stopover area!
I will close with a few thoughts about Leopold’s
legacy and what it might suggest about certain aspects
of Canada goose populations, habitats, and conservation
I would ask that we consider, fi rst, Leopold’s
former haunts along the Rio Grande in New Mexico
between Albuquerque and Bosque del Apache National
Wildlife Refuge. Those of you who are familiar with
that country know that the middle Rio Grande is an eco-
system in serious trouble. Rising human demands for
its water and changes in the hydrology of the river basin
have reduced the river’s basefl ow, disrupted its fl ood-
ing cycles, degraded its riparian cottonwood gallery
forests, and threatened the native fi sh fauna of the river
itself. The geese of the Bosque remain abundant and
picturesque, but they obviously do not exist in isolation,
apart from the river that is their lifeblood. They and
thousands of other species, upstream and downstream,
depend on a healthy river. To maintain them we must
think of the river as a dynamic system, of the landscape
that the river drains, and of the people within the
watershed. This is the essence of ecosystem manage-
ment—a term of course that Leopold never heard, but
which he plainly anticipated (Knight 1996). In short,
we cannot talk about the geese of the Rio Grande, or of
any other ecosystem, without talking about the health
of that ecosystem as a whole.
Another theme that bears mentioning is the
simple (and, to most of us, depressing) fact that we are
humanizing the environment and changing habitats
on a vast scale, at an unprecedented rate. This is not a
new thing under the sun; another “Leopoldian” theme
is that the ways of life of people and wildlife have been
intricately woven throughout history, and both have
adapted. The changing status of the Canada goose is
but 1 expression of this dynamic. Especially in regard
to generalist species such as the Canada goose (and the
sandhill crane), we are adapting to wildlife and they are
adapting to us. And yet we have to remember that, for
many people—especially those living in the cities and
suburbs—geese, for all of the problems they can bring,
may still be the only wildlife species that many people
will interact with on any regular basis. Even in their
excess numbers, geese remain a rare and important visi-
tor in the realm of the human.
A third theme to note is one that Leopold knew
only in its dawning hours: ecological restoration.
Horicon Marsh, perhaps the fi rst example of large-scale
wetland restoration, was undertaken less than a human
lifetime ago. Restoration is still a relatively new aspect
of conservation, dating back to those pioneering efforts
of the late 1920s and 1930s. Prompted by waterfowl
hunters and conservationists, wetland restoration
efforts began even before interest in restoring tall grass
prairies emerged, and long before the restoration of
other ecosystems was envisioned. We owe a great debt
to that generation of leaders, with their sensitivity to
the needs of the future. We enjoy today the benefi ts of
their efforts, even as we are challenged by new conser-
vation dilemmas.
I close on the point where I began: Leopold
considering the unity of nations in 1943, and noting the
gift that geese, and all the world’s migratory species,
offer us. They remind us, even—or especially—in times
of human con ict, of the ties that bind. The geese are
returning to Wisconsin in 2003, as they have “every
March since the Pleistocene,” crossing boundaries and
demonstrating, once again, the reality of our global con-
nections. They lift themselves off the water and off the
earth. As they pass through our lives, they connect us
to others—other people, other places, other creatures,
other times. They unify the world.
The author thanks Ricky Lien of the Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources for his very helpful
assistance in transcribing this presentation.
FLADER, S. L. 1974. Thinking like a mountain: Aldo Leo-
pold and the evolution of an ecological attitude
toward deer, wolves, and forests. University of
Missouri Press, Columbia, USA.
_____, AND J. B. CALLICOTT. 1991. The river of the mother
of God and other essays by Aldo Leopold. Univer-
sity of Wisconsin Press, Madison, USA.
KNIGHT, R. L. 1996. Aldo Leopold, the land ethic, and
ecosystem management. Journal of Wildlife Man-
agement 60:471-474.
_____, AND P. B. LANDRES, editors. 1998. Stewardship
across boundaries. Island Press, Washington,
D.C., USA.
KORTRIGHT, F. H. 1943. The ducks, geese and swans of
North America. The American Wildlife Institute,
Washington, D.C., USA.
LEOPOLD, A. 1918. Forestry and game conservation.
Journal of Forestry 16:404-411.
_____. 1930. The American game policy in a nutshell.
Transactions of the Seventeenth American Game
Conference 17:281-283.
_____. 1931. Report on a game survey of the north cen-
tral states. Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manu-
facturers’ Institute, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
_____. 1933. Game management. Charles Scribner’s
Sons, New York, New York, USA.
_____. 1936. Threatened species: a proposal to the
Wildlife Conference for an inventory of the needs
of near-extinct birds and animals. American For-
ests 42:116-119.
_____. 1940. When geese return spring is here. Wis-
consin Agriculturist and Farmer 67:18.
_____. 1944. Post-war prospects. Audubon Magazine
_____. 1949. A sand county almanac and sketches here
and there. Oxford University Press, New York,
New York, USA.
_____. 1953. Round river: from the journals of Aldo
Leopold. Oxford University Press, New York,
New York, USA.
_____. 1999. For the health of the land: previously
unpublished essays and other writings. J. B.
Callicott and E. T. Freyfogle, editors. Island Press,
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MEINE, C. D. 1988. Aldo Leopold: his life and work.
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geese in North America. Pages 26-28 in E. T.
LaRoe, G. S. Farris, C. E. Puckett, P. D. Doran, and
M. J. Mac, editors. Our living resources: a report
to the nation on the distribution, abundance, and
health of U.S. plants, animals, and ecosystems.
U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biologi-
cal Service, Washington, D.C., USA.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
This report is the first product of the Status and Trends Program in the National Biological Service. It is the first of a series of reports on the status and trends of the nation's plants, animals, and ecosystems. The report compiles information on many species and the ecosystems on which they depend. It provides information about causes for the decline of some species and habitats. It also gives insight into successful management strategies that have resulted in recovery of others. The report represents an effort to bridge the gap between scientists and resource managers, policy makers, and the general public.
Ecosystem management asks stewards to manage lands for commodities, amenities, and, importantly, native biological diversity. Aldo Leopold anticipated this idea by some 40 years when he developed the concept of a "land ethic." I illustrate aspects of ecosystem management with quotations from Leopold's writings.
Every piece of land, no matter how remote or untrammeled, has a boundary. While sometimes boundary lines follow topographic or biological features, more often they follow the straight lines of political dictate and compromise. Administrative boundaries nearly always fragment a landscape, resulting in loss of species that must disperse or migrate across borders, increased likelihood of threats such as alien species or pollutants, and disruption of natural processes such as fire. Despite the importance and ubiquity of boundary issues, remarkably little has been written on the subject.Stewardship Across Boundaries fills that gap in the literature, addressing the complex biological and socioeconomic impacts of both public and private land boundaries in the United States. With contributions from natural resource managers, historians, environmentalists, political scientists, and legal scholars, the book:develops a framework for understanding administrative boundaries and their effects on the land and on human behavior examines issues related to different types of boundaries -- wilderness, commodity, recreation, private-public presents a series of case studies illustrating the efforts of those who have cooperated to promote stewardship across boundaries synthesizes the broad complexity of boundary-related issues and offers an integrated strategy for achieving regional stewardshi.Stewardship Across Boundaries should spur open discussion among students, scientists, managers, and activists on this important topic. It demonstrates how legal, social, and ecological conditions interact in causing boundary impacts and why those factors must be integrated to improve land management. It also discusses research needs and will help facilitate critical thinking within the scientific community that could result in new strategies for managing boundaries and their impacts.
Threatened species: a proposal to the Wildlife Conference for an inventory of the needs of near-extinct birds and animals
_____. 1936. Threatened species: a proposal to the Wildlife Conference for an inventory of the needs of near-extinct birds and animals. American Forests 42:116-119.
Forestry and game conservation
  • A Leopold
LEOPOLD, A. 1918. Forestry and game conservation. Journal of Forestry 16:404-411.
For the health of the land: previously unpublished essays and other writings
_____. 1999. For the health of the land: previously unpublished essays and other writings. J. B.
When geese return spring is here
_____. 1940. When geese return spring is here. Wisconsin Agriculturist and Farmer 67:18.