"In Wildness is the Preservation of the World"

Wild means what exactly?

What does Aldo Leopold really discover in working with Arthur Carhart in Colorado?

Defining the many facets of wild | Conflicts | Ecological context | New Deal tradition | dates | boundaries of the discussion | lesson

Who Leopold, Nash, Williams Woman's wilderness
What Less civilized natural areas Scenery
When 1607-2005 Wallace Stegner
Where North America Is wild Definable?
How struggle over land and water California Water Case

The Nash and Pollan debate.

Nash on the future: Island Civilization.

A New science of ecology emerges and redefines wilderness from 1900-1949.

"when we build houses on the last one we forget what houses are for,..."

Aldo Leopold, 1925, in Nash, p. 188.

Boundaries of the struggle:

" I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on a map?"

Aldo Leopold, "The Green Lagoons," 1945,( in Nash p. 189.)

Old struggle Utilitarianism   Transcendentalism
  Agrarianism   Romanticism
New players Gifford Pinchot   John Muir
  Arthur Carhart   Robert Marshall
  William B. Greeley   Wallace Stegner
New values Conservation
  Ecological Restoration
Aldo Leopold
Lynn Margulis

Conservation impulse expanded on a national and state levels (more dates)–meaning: to keep from harm, loss or decay, redefined by Pinchot:

1902 Newland’s Act created the Bureau of Reclamation to irrigate western US.

1922 Leopold brothers go to the deltaic lagoons of the Colorado River
1924 Robert Marshall proposed the regulations (U & L) for National Forest wild areas
1928 Boulder Dam Project to flood a reservoir called Lake Meade for water & power

1929 the Great Depression, one in four Americans were jobless, half the nations wealth disappeared in the stock market, high tariff's protected each nation's goods and prolonged the economic collapse.
1933 “the Dust Bowl” on the Plains caused by a mixture of economic incentives that generated an ecological collapse during a cyclical variation in rainfall and drought patterns.
1933 Leopold's Game Management on the inherent value of predators is published based in part on the study of the Kaibab Plateau deer disaster due to predator control.
1937 Omnibus Flood control Act passed to reduce risks in river flood plains by building levees, draining wetlands, and making canals to remove excess water.
1940 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service formed in the Department of Interior to protect and manage wildlife refuges, restock fisheries, and manage for game protection.
1945 use of the atomic bomb in New Mexico, & Japan produced radiation as a tracer of elements in natural pathways -- such as strontium in calcium based processes.
1947 “tideland’s oil” controversy between the states and the federal governments.

1949 A Sand County Almanac, by Leopold published posthumously "on Man's Leisure Time and the Land Ethic critique of conservation policies.

1990s The new challenge of climate change due to global warming as a consequence of fossil fuel pollution is called "junk science" by industry.

1998 "Visions of Tropical America"

What does Aldo Leopold really discover in the Delta, Colorado?

Delta of the Colrado River, 1922, hunting expedition's diary.

This is a primary document because it is a first-hand account, before the Colorado river was dammed in Boulder Canyon, by Hoover Dam (1928).

Leopold's writing about the mouth of Colorado river, its lagoons and wildlife is an example of an older set of values associated with conservation, which is "the keeping wildlife, fish and vegetation from harm loss or decay."

Delta Colorado


The lagoon -- a coastal body of water, often salt or brackish water mixes with fresh water.

Ecology & Economics of wetlands -- oikos [Greek: meaning household] + topos [place]

Engineering the future: Comprehensive River Management (Colorado, Columbia & Tennessee rivers) would mean that most rivers would be dammed and the water diverted for farming and flood control or hydro-electrical power.

Frederick Newel’s vision was irrigation for farms, and cities
An adequate Land Policy required farms to have sufficient fresh water in the west.
sanitary and comfortable housing dictated that cities needed municipal water supplies.

New Deal and conservation:

The ideal of conservation changed and in addition to being an attempt to keep from harm, loss or decay" the conservation movement to protect animals, fish, forests and watershed emerged as a surrogate for the opportunity of the now closed “frontier."

Conservation as a social movement created the floor or foundation on which the movement for the protection of "untrammeled" land for wildlife, vegetation, fisheries, and subsistence peoples gathered momentum and widened its appeal from North America, Russia, and Britain to the world by the 1930s.


Scientifically speaking field biologists and paleontologists began to be concerned that sufficient remnants of the original North American flora and fauna be preserved, that is protected from any intrusions that would otherwise alter the natural flow of water, or the customary impacts of fires, storms or insects on the native plants and animals.

Ecology is the science of connections among watersheds, landscapes and any places' inhabitants. Ecologists train to investigate the conditions of existence. Ecological scientists study watersheds and the ranges or habitat’s of plants, fungus, and animals in order to systematically describe how one thing is connected to another.

As the native vegetation disappeared across the country, the Ecological Society of America identified under a hundred characteristic natural areas and their biological communities in order to preserve whole systems from loss.

In protecting the functional behavior and the ecological integrity of these specimen ecological reserves, ecologists began to change the preservation movement.

By the 1930s to preserve characteristic biomes required a protection of water, soil, wildlife, fisheries, vegetation and the unseen members of the ecosystem.

New terminology came into existence such as ecological system and biome

The Russian scientists even called the realm of all life on earth, the biosfera, or biosphere, and began to set aside significant watershed and landscape areas into reserves called Zapovedniki.

the role of energy in ecological systems

Tansley’s “ecosystem model”

The functional behavior of a lake habitat
was studied by Lindeman. He is known for Lindeman’s “trophic levels” which he used to describe the productivity and exchange of energy among different organisms in a lake, bog or marsh.

Aldo Leopold -- before his death-- asked "What is the value of a crane marsh?"
“paleontologic patent of nobility”

Wetland values are many.

Leopold’s description of the Colorado River’s Delta: a river as a living unit with integrity based on the presence of fish, birds, game and non-game species, predators and adequate water flow to nourish all of the diverse fish and bird populations.

ecological integrity

Wilderness has an ambivalent value:

intrinsic; inherent in the experience of being wild or in a wild condition (biocentric ethic)

• “higher gamut” “functional integrity & diversity generate beauty” A. Leopold

utilitarian; important for uses such as canoeing, white water rafting, sport hunting or recreation

• “greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time” G. Pinchot

The challenge for preservationists had become serious by 1940 as wildlife and fisheries were in obvious decline.

Conservation of wildlife such as deer for hunting could mean the elimination of predators and the weakening of the ecological integrity of a protected area.

Conservation of water could mean damming a river by flooding a reservoir and interfering with the migration of salmon, upstream to spawn, depriving birds, bears and fishers of a sustained yield fishery resource.

Conservation of forests for timber could lead to a suppression of fire and an eventual change in the mixture of tree species. As the trees changes so may the birds and wildlife.

Conservation of game species could adversely affect non-game wildlife unless an ecological approach to conservation was undertaken.

As the decades came and went the tension between utilitarian conservation and the preservation of biological wealth became harder to reconcile.

A change was coming to the American conservation movement and in that struggle to reform policies the Ecological Revolution, as it came to be known, gained momentum, took the nation by storm from 1962-1980 and eventually crashed on the rocks of opposition and the shoals of energy-use.