When Iowa native Aldo Leopold chronicled the life of a black-capped chickadee that he banded and recorded its return to his feeder for five years, little did he know that decades later it would become one of his most beloved essays. Or that his experience of turning an 80-year-old oak tree into firewood would help explain a new conservation principle to millions of followers.
Both essays are part of A Sand County Almanac, which was published a year after his death in 1948 and is the primer for Leopold’s conservation ideas called the Land Ethic. Both will be read aloud on Sunday, April 29 as part of an annual Ames Reads Leopold event. Now in its 11th year, the celebration is open to the public and will run from 2-4 p.m. at the Ames Public Library, 515 Douglas Avenue.
“Aldo Leopold is considered the father of wildlife conservation in America and this is a great way to reflect on these ideas so beautifully expressed in his writings,” said Bruce Wight, who chairs the event’s planning committee and is an officer in the Outdoor Alliance of Story County.
“Leopold’s philosophy is popular with naturalists and writers alike,” Wight added, “and can help guide our discussions of today’s environmental issues.”
Leopold wrote about the natural world that surrounded his family’s weekend property near Baraboo, Wisconsin. A professor of wildlife management at the University of Wisconsin and prolific writer, Leopold also pondered the philosophical underpinnings of conservation, the role of private landowners, and what makes up a biotic community. All are part of Leopold’s Land Ethic.
Guest readers will share a selection of Leopold’s most well-known essays, including “65290” (the chickadee’s band number), “The Good Oak” and others from A Sand County Almanac, and one essay from The River of the Mother of God, a later collection of Leopold’s writings. The readings will be illustrated by a slideshow of photos. Refreshments will be available throughout the afternoon event.
A number of organizations have come together to plan and support this year’s event. They include the Ames Public Library, Friends of Ada Hayden Park, Big Bluestem Audubon Society, Iowa State University’s Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Environment, KHOI Community Radio, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the ISU Office of Sustainability/Live Green! Initiative, Outdoor Alliance of Story County, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Story County Conservation, the ISU Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Student Association and the Ames Public Library Friends Foundation.
Guest readers include representatives from partner organizations.
A drawing will be held for free copies of A Sand County Almanac, provided by the Leopold Center.