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Taylor Tucker 9/12/2013 Forestry & Society A Sand County Almanac – Essay 1 There are occasional cases where people

surprise me with their level of intelligence. More often than not, this surprise comes with the realization that the individual opposite me has hardly any understanding of common sense or common knowledge. But then there is, (rarely, mind you), instances where people not only prove their massive intellectual superiority over myself, but they do so in a way that affirms the fact that while I may feel secure in my intellectual prowess over lesser minds, there are those who are so far superior that I may as well be no more intelligent than an orangutan in a zoo. Enter Leopold Aldo, author of A Sand County Almanac, a man gone from the Earth for nearly fifty years before my birth and yet is still able to inspire feelings of inadequacy in me. This book of essays, the thoughts and musings of man in love with the world itself and all that naturally inhabits it, contains some of most poetic and thought inducing literature I have yet read. Although I must admit, the time that could have spent expanding that list has been squandered by years of exploring virtual worlds and watching car chases and shootouts unfold behind the safety of a silver screen. A Sand County Almanac has still managed to inspire me in a subject that I have previously cared little for, if only due to the sheer magnitude of the radiant affection the author shows for the subject in his writing.

The title is broken up into three parts, with my current favorite being the first. “Shack Sketches” opens this series of essays by way of Leopold sharing his experiences on a sand farm with his family. Relatively short, when compared to the latter two sections, these essays expose a singular event that occurred in Leopold’s life, one for every month of the year. My favorite, as of this writing, whisks the reader away on an historical journey, as Leopold describes sawing through a dead oak as one would chronological series of events; as each ring on the tree is met and subsequently cut, he illustrates events throughout time that the tree has seen, from the beginning of his own ownership of the land in 1935, until reaching the center of the tree, all the way into the 1850’s. “Part II: Sketches Here And There” brings with it a new tone, distinctive of the more personal and informal essays of the first section. Here is where the stories become less about about stories and enjoyment, and more reminiscing of what is disappearing from existence. It’s here that we seen Leopold’s almost contempt for what people have done to the natural world. I say almost, because it’s also very clear that Leopold understands that in the quest for advancement, mistakes are made, often due to ignorance, rather than malice. “Part III: The Upshot” is the final collection. Yet again proving his mastery of the pen, Leopold offers four compositions, which take a formal, politically situated stance on how we must better treat the land and all that it provides. These final four are a far cry from the first series of essays, which offered little more than a man’s ramblings on the wildness of nature herself. The former mentioned four are formal, a call to arms, for all the world to answer. Better then, that they be situated at the

end of book, presumably after the reader has followed Leopold through his interpretation of things natural and serene. It feels all the more appropriate that a man so appreciative and affectionate of the land would be referred to as the “father of wildlife management” by his peers. Following his graduation from Yale Forest School in 1909, he eagerly pursued and secured a career with the relatively new government established U.S. Forest Service in Arizona and New Mexico, and by age 24, had become Supervisor for the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. In his time in this post, he was instrumental in developing the proposal to manage the Gila National Forest as a wilderness area, the first of it’s kind. He would later accept a position in game management at Wisconsin University, a position held until his death in 1948, a week after receiving word that his manuscript for A Sand County Almanac would be published, and a year before it would hit store shelves. Working with the Forest Service, Leopold still held many complaints in regards to practices and, more specifically, the results of their tampering. One such instance is described in middle section of the book, in which 1947 dairy farmers desired cheaper electricity than what was offered by the power companies. To this end, they organized and applied for a power dam which, when built, would cut off the lower reaches of a fifty mile long river in process of restoration by the Conservation Department. This led to a political fight between the two, and the legislature, “oblivious to wilderness value”, approved the construction of the dam, as well as silencing the Conservation Commission in any and all future disposition of power sites.

Consider this scenario, leveled by Leopold at the Conservation Commission, albeit in a different light than in the previous passage. In the goals of protecting costly artificially grown trout, the Commission deems it necessary to kill all herons and terns that may visit the hatchery where the trout is raised, as well as any and all otters and ducks that inhabit the waterways the trout is released in. Sacrificing lives of those species deemed unnecessary in the pursuit of profit. In forest regions, where the deer’s natural predators are nixed, likely due to hunting of any nature; this allows the deer to flourish out of control, in a manner that the local flora simply cannot support. This leads to an overabundance of malnourished deer, as well as exhausted and depleted flora. Where is the Conservation Department or Forestry Service here? These events occurred decades, when Leopold could still observe and critique. The Forest Service has come a long way since it was formed in 1881, and more still since Leopold once held an office within it. But still, considerable criticism can still be launched in their general direction. In the late 60’s, demand for wood in a postWWII era led to clearcutting extensive portions of standing forests’. Clearcutting, the method of cutting down all trees within a 20-100 acre range, became a point of contention with many citizens. This method of harvesting timber imposes higher reforestation and rehabilitation costs, but not for the timber companies who reap the benefit of the harvest. But when considering the cost to wild flora and fauna, the cost becomes immeasurable. This all eventually led to lawsuits, inquiries, controversies, and congressional hearings. In 1976, a plan was instituted to form a comprehensive forest planning committee, one that cost billions of dollars and

resulted in zero solutions. The majority of the data used in these debates were fabricated, and as such, useless. This eventually resulted in the National Forest Management act of 1976 which, while not making clearcutting a law breaking offense, did create the requirement that studies be performed of an area before any harvesting of trees could be performed. While this has not ended clearcutting, it has forced timber companies to be more conscientious of their actions. Such as “shaping” of the harvest to be more pleasing to the eye, as well as extensive testing of other, preferable methods of harvesting. There is still much corruption in the logging industry, as reported by Blaine Harden of the Washington Post, who, in 2004, found that trees in Alaska had been clearcut, only to be left to rot due to poor planning of the Forest Service. This would cost millions of wasted tax payers dollars. Fast forward to 2000, where a raging fire burned down well over one billion dollars worth of homes in Alamos, New Mexico. Congress would respond to this by giving the Forestry Service a massive 38 percent increase to it’s 2001 budget. Fire expenditure grew from around 0 percent in the early 90’s to over 40 percent in 2009. Much of this money is said to be spent reducing hazardous fuels within forests, yet much of this expenditure should be considered as questionable as the Forest Service’s timber expenditure. It’s well know by forest managers that some fires should be allowed to burn for the good of the forest ecosystem, but according to Randal O’ Toole, author of The Perfect Firestorm, Congress has essentially given the Forest Service a blank check since the beginning of the fire scare in 2000. Forestry Service leaders are taking extreme advantage of Congress’s willingness to

throw money at the issue, and as such, they blindly put out any and all fires. According to O’ Toole, even people within the Forest Service fear that their basic commitment to conservation is being lost in a blind bid to spend on all fire-related activities. Even with all the negative aspects of the Forestry Service, (and with an organization this large, there will always be issue), they still manage a hell of a lot of good for the natural environment. They currently manage over 190 million acres of land, as well as employ’s over 30,000 workers. Even with the corruption, mismanagement, and ability to occasionally destroy the very thing it’s meant to protect, it still manages to protect hundreds of thousands of wild flora and fauna, as well as millions of acres of recreational land all across the states. Need for reform noted, The Forest Service provides a much needed, albeit exceptionally flawed service that, without it, would mean a much quicker destruction of national forestry. Perhaps, then, the only thing it needs is new leadership. And while I find it doubtful that another Aldo Leopold will come along anytime soon, perhaps all it takes is for someone to try anyway.

Works Cited 1970, the Forest Service was cutting almost four times as much timber as it did in 1952, almost all of it clearcut. The resulting controversies over both clearcutting, the large amount of timber being cut rocked the agency, congressional hearings, and tree-sitting protests. Ironically. "The Forest Service | Downsizing the Federal Government." Downsizing the Federal Government. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013. <>. Harden, Blaine. "Reopening Forest Areas Stirs Debate in Alaska (" The Washington Post: National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines - The Washington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013. <>. Leopold, Aldo, and Charles Walsh Schwartz. A Sand County almanac, and sketches here and there. New York: Oxford University Press, 19871949. Print. "The Aldo Leopold Foundation." The Aldo Leopold Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013. <>. "The Perfect Firestorm: Bringing Forest Service Wildfire Costs under Control | Cato Institute." Cato Institute | Individual Liberty, Free Markets, and Peace. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013. <>. "The Perfect Firestorm: Bringing Forest Service Wildfire Costs under Control | Cato Institute." Cato Institute | Individual Liberty, Free Markets, and Peace. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013. <>