"The good life of any river may depend on the perception of its music; and the preservation of some music to perceive." — Aldo Leopold

What we do ...

In the years since it was formed in 2004, the Leopold Heritage Group has sponsored a variety of local projects centered on the idea of promoting the legacy of Aldo Leopold and encouraging people to think about their interactions with the natural world. These have included speakers, film screenings, events such as wildflower walks and birding programs and more, usually during the month of April.

LHG continues to strive to engage our community. Looking ahead to the rest of this year and beyond, here's a little bit about what is on our plate:

Outdoor Classroom on the Prairie

LHG is working with the Burlington School District to install a two-acre outdoor classroom area at Aldo Leopold Middle School where students will be able to integrate nature into their studies. The concept proposes winding paths leading through reconstructed prairie to rock outcrop enclosures for classrooms.

In an interview, Dr. Estella Leopold concluded with a statement on the importance of reaching children, which this project aims to do: "I was raised outdoors," she said. "You'd go out to play, go everywhere all day. But kids now are more restricted. How are they going to learn to love and protect nature?"

Aldo Leopold himself also commented on this ideal in the pages of "A Sand County Almanac."

"When I call to mind my earliest impressions, I wonder whether the process ordinarily referred to as growing up is not actually a process of growing down; whether experience, so much touted among adults as the thing children lack in, is not actually a progressive dilution of the essentials by the trivialities of living. This much at least is sure: my earliest impression of wildlife and its pursuit retain a vivid sharpness of form, color, and atmosphere that half a century of professional wildlife experience has failed to obliterate or to improve upon."

Preserving/repurposing legacy trees

The Starker/Leopold family had a tradition of planting trees in "Leopold Park" for important occasions — birthdays, weddings and peace celebrations. To mark Aldo's birth in 1887, the family planted a red oak tree that, by 2013, had reached a diameter of 5 feet. A heavy storm May 30, 2013, destroyed the tree, which might otherwise have lived for many more decades.

Red oak no doubt was selected because it was a prime wood used by the Leopold Desk Co., being excellent in strength, grain pattern and color for desks and other furniture. The company was an acquisition by Charles Starker to be run by his son-in-law, Carl Leopold, Aldo's father. Their slogan: "Built on Honor to Endure," reflects the quality of oak.

The Leopold Heritage Group received help from Leopold grand-nephew Nelson Smith to saw the logs, and the guiding hands of grand-nephew Jim Spring. LHG plans to use the oak lumber for fundraising projects for museum and visitor center pieces.

Other large pieces of oak are being considered for sculptural works to help celebrate the Leopold family and its contributions to the conservation movement in America.

'Aldo Leopold: Writing from His Burlington Roots'

LHG member and Aldo Leopold researcher Steve Brower is available to provide your group or organization a program detailing Leopold's childhood years spent growing up in Burlington, and interpreting how it influenced Leopold's life achievements.

Local Leopold Tours

Arrange a guided tour for your group or organization with an interpreter from the Leopold Heritage Group to significant Leopold sites in and around Burlington. Groups may be combined.

Learn more

For more information about Leopold Heritage Group projects, or to ask about arranging a tour or presentation, contact LHG chairwoman Kent Rector at Des Moines County Conservation's Starr's Cave Nature Center, (319) 753-5808.