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A Day to Remember

Posted: May 29, 2016

What are you remembering this weekend?
Aldo Leopold's shack in Sauk County, Wisconsin. Photo Credit: JT Fleegle

Aldo Leopold's shack in Sauk County, Wisconsin. Photo Credit: JT Fleegle

Today Americans are celebrating Memorial Day.  By definition, it is a solemn holiday founded to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military.  However, they are honored in the best of ways (in my opinion) with celebration.  Respected and thanked by millions of people that have never met them.  

Memorial Day also marks the unofficial start of summer.  Again, I find this completely appropriate.  What better way to celebrate the life of those we lost than with rebirth.  There are no more brown patches of grass, the trees are no longer naked, all the birds are back loudly proclaiming their arrival, baby bunnies scamper into hedgerows, fawns are curled up on the forest floor – step outside and life surrounds you!

As Americans we are blessed in so many ways.  While today we are most reminded of the blessing of freedom and those who are no longer here to enjoy it, we are also blessed by the bounty of nature that exists by stepping out the door.

Americans fought for that too.  You might know some of their names – John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, Rachel Carson, John James Audubon, Theodore Roosevelt, and Aldo Leopold just to name a few.

Nearest and dearest to most wildlifers’ hearts is Aldo Leopold.  Leopold is considered the father of wildlife management and the U.S. wilderness system.  A prolific writer, his best known work is a collection of essays, A Sand County Almanac, and his most famous concept, a Land Ethic.

Baba Dioum might have captured Leopold’s concept the best when he said, “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught."null

I had the great fortune of visiting Baraboo, Wisconsin and the “worn-out farm” that Aldo Leopold and his family transformed from Dust Bowl victim to a thriving mosaic of conifers, hardwoods, and prairie on the Wisconsin River.

I stood in the “Shack” inches away from the very chair where Leopold rested after a day’s work of planting trees (his family planted over 40,000) and getting to know the land.  I was moved by this experience and still am just thinking about the depth of his determination to save what was lost.

It is easy to get discouraged in my profession.  The hurdles and barriers to responsible wildlife and land management are seemingly endless.  But hope springs eternal – with me and my colleagues.  Most of us inspired by one man, his family, and a little worn-out farm.

This Memorial Day celebrate those who gave all for this country.  And when you wake to the noisy chatter of songbirds or catch a glimpse of that fawn on your way to the parade or hear the summer breeze rustling the leaves at the cookout, be thankful for all of those who made that possible too.

-Jeannine Fleegle
PGC Deer and Elk Section

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