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Aldo Leopold | Wisconsin Historical Society

Classroom Material

Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold | Wisconsin Historical Society
EnlargeA young Aldo Leopold poses proudly with his bamboo fishing pole, stringer of fish and a dog.

Young Aldo Leopold

A young Aldo Leopold poses proudly with his bamboo fishing pole, stringer of fish and a dog. The family was on vacation in the Cheneaux Islands, near Mackinac. View the original source document: WHI 93910


Note: This is a grade-level appropriate biographical essay about a significant figure from Wisconsin's past.

Have you ever wondered about the natural world that surrounds us? Why are there so many rabbits? What happens when a stream gets polluted? Where do birds go when they fly south? Aldo Leopold was curious about the world. He set out to take care of it and to teach others how to do the same.

Aldo Leopold was born on January 11, 1887. He grew up near the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa. Aldo loved to spend his time outdoors hunting and fishing.

Aldo went to college to study forestry. After he graduated, Aldo joined the US Forest Service. He worked in national forests in the southwestern United States. His job was to help manage wildlife populations.

Aldo Leopold Shack

Aldo Leopold Shack, 1935

Fairfield, Wisconsin. The Aldo Leopold Shack was listed on the National Register in 1978. Source: WHS - Historic Preservation - Public History. View the property record: AHI 16662

Aldo discovered something important about nature. Many scientists thought that killing predators would increase the number of prey animals like deer. Aldo disagreed with the idea that larger herds were better. Larger herds could destroy a grazing area, causing starvation and disease. He thought that predators, such as wolves, make herds of deer stronger. Predators do this by eating weak and sick animals. The animals that survive are stronger and able to survive hard winters or bad droughts. He also connected his ideas about animals to the environment they lived in. He believed that proper management of the wilderness meant keeping it as diverse as possible.

Wildlife biologists now agree with him. Aldo’s ideas changed the way scientists think about the natural world. He even wrote the textbook that helped shape wildlife management as it exists today.

Aldo and his family moved to Madison in the early 1920s. He became a professor at UW­–Madison. Aldo's family had a cabin in Baraboo. They called it “The Shack.” He took careful notes about the plants and animals he saw there. He also observed how people affected the environment. Aldo even has a type of bench named after him. You may have even sat on one in a park or on a nature trail.

In 1949, his most famous book, A Sand County Almanac, was published. In it, Aldo wrote that people needed moral rules telling them how to treat the environment. His essay “The Land Ethic” describes a caring relationship between people and the plants and animals that make up the world around us. 

Sadly, Aldo Leopold died in 1948, a year before his book was published. The ideas he left behind forever changed the way people think about the world and our place in it.

A young Aldo Leopold poses smiling wearing a jacket and bow tie while seated on a pier.

Aldo Leopold

A young Aldo Leopold poses smiling wearing a jacket and bow tie while seated on a pier. He is vacationing in the Cheneaux Islands. View the original source document: WHI 93913


 Reading Level Correlations

  • Level X (6th Grade)