Spreading Green fire one community at a time

By Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs Directly following a recent showing of the new film Green fire about Aldo Leopold, a woman in the audience confessed that she had “never heard of the man,” in spite of being an active member of several environmental organizations that Leopold had either helped establish or heavily influenced. That’s just one of the reasons Stanley Temple is spending much of his time traveling around the United States to show and discuss the film.   Temple is Professor Emeritus of conservation, forest and wildlife ecology, and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and senior fellow and science advisor with the Aldo Leopold Foundation.  He’s visiting communities around the country to introduce Leopold and his ideas to audiences who may never have heard of the man who was a key figure in shaping American approaches to managing natural resources; the pioneer of the field that would become known as wildlife ecology and management. Leopold is best known as the author of A Sand County Almanac, which wasn’t published until after his death in the late 1940s.  Sales were initially feeble—Americans were not ready for Leopold’s essays on “one man’s striving to live by and with, rather than on, the American land.”  But when it was reissued as a paperback in the late 1960s, Americans and others around the globe had caught up with Leopold; the book has sold over two million copies in ten languages. Leopold was a Yale-trained forester who, as noted by Temple, never stagnated in his thinking.  In fact, over the course of his 61 years, Leopold changed his view in several areas, perhaps most notably, his ideas about predators.  At the beginning of his career, he had promoted killing of wolves in the American Southwest.   Later in his career, Leopold shifted 180 degrees in his thinking, recognizing the key role predators play in a healthy ecosystem.  This shift is captured in A Sand County Almanac: “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.  I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain.  I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise.  But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.” Last Friday, Temple showed Green fire in Reston, Virginia, one of the country’s few planned communities, and one which is facing big changes.  Reston lies...

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