US conservationist and ecologist. In addition to his pioneering research in game management, he worked out a philosophical concept he called ‘the land ethic’. The concept, he wrote, ‘simply enlarges the boundaries of the (human) community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively the land’. After retiring from academia he bought a farm in the Wisconsin Dells. There, after several years of intense observation, he expanded his philosophy in a book, A Sand County Almanac (published posthumously in 1949), which became the ‘bible’ of environmental activists of the 1960s and 1970s.
Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa. He grew up a sportsman and a naturalist, graduated from Yale University in 1908, and after a year in Yale's forestry school, joined the US Forest Service. Assigned to the Arizona-New Mexico district, he spent 15 years in the field, rising to chief of the district. By 1921 he had begun to campaign for the preservation of wildlife areas for recreational and aesthetic purposes. In 1924 the government, adopting his views on preservation, set aside 574,000 acres in New Mexico as the Gila Wilderness Area – the first of 78 such areas totalling 14,000,000 acres. He was with the US Forest Products Laboratory from 1924–28 and then spent three years surveying game populations in the north-central states. In 1933 he became professor of wildlife management at the University of Wisconsin, a position created specifically for him. He died of a heart attack while fighting a brush fire on a neighbour's farm.