Aldo Leopold

The Wilderness Society

A Yale-educated professor of wildlife management

Aldo Leopold had a deep appreciation for the natural world and worked with the Forest Service to protect the nation’s first wilderness area. He also wrote A Sand County Almanac, the seminal book on the land ethic. 

“When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” –Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Early Life

Born in Burlington, Iowa, in 1887, Aldo Leopold spent his boyhood exploring the nearby woods and fields. He went east for high school to Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, where his love of the outdoors took a heavy toll on his grades. Leopold survived high school and began college at Yale with the goal of obtaining a graduate degree from the University's brand new School of Forestry.

The First Wilderness Area

With degrees in hand, Leopold joined the Forest Service in 1909, advancing swiftly as a ranger and supervisor in New Mexico. By 1919, his thinking had evolved from a narrow focus on forestry and wildlife management to an expanded awareness of the need to protect wilderness in America.

In 1924, Leopold convinced the Forest Service to protect as wilderness 500,000 acres of New Mexico's Gila National Forest. It was the National Forest System's first officially designated wilderness area.


In 1933, the University of Wisconsin offered Leopold a professorship to teach in the nation's first graduate program in wildlife management. Two years later, with the rapid loss of wilderness in America weighing heavily on his mind, Leopold joined seven other leading conservationists to form The Wilderness Society. 

Around the same time, Leopold purchased a farm on the Wisconsin River, where, over the years, he and his family planted thousands of trees.  Leopold’s time spent planting, hiking, and observing inspired his most famous book, A Sand County Almanac. In it, he introduces the idea of the “land ethic,” which to this day serves as a guiding beacon for The Wilderness Society.