Conservation and the Long View

A day of thinking about Aldo Leopold

  Jan 14, 2017   iburke


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Today I ran in the Westwoods trails, part of the Guilford Land Conservation Trust. It is a GREAT place to go for a long run, because there are 39 miles of trails, and if you are prone to getting lost in the east where there are no huge mountain peaks to orient to, you can use an awesome interactive trail map on Avenza (I use it every time). Along the way, on the white circle trail, I passed this cypress tree, which looked as though it had split the rock apart (probably not...), reminding me of the wonderful lines from Aldo Leopold's essay "Odyssey"from A Sand County Almanac, about the billions of years of history in an atom's journey through the biological and geological cycles:

"The break came when a bur-oak root nosed down through a crack and began prying and sucking. In the flash of a century the rock decayed, and X was pulled out and up into the world of living things. He helped build a flower, which became an acorn, which fattened a deer which fed an Indian, all in a single year. From his berth in the Indian's bones, X joined again in chase and flight, feast and famine, home and fear. He felt these things as changes in the little chemical pushes and pulls that tug timelessly at every atom. When the Indian took his leave of the prairie, X moldered briefly underground, only to embark on a second trip through the bloodstream of the land...."

Pure poetry (I am, after all, a biogeochemist).

The other reminder of Leopold was just knowing that these trails, the split rock and tree, will be here for as long as we think we can predict things for the future of humans, because they are part of a conservation easement. Leopold wrote about land conservation being the responsibility of a landowner, and about the lack of economic incentives for true conservation. Because of the Guilford Land Conservation Trust acquiring lands like these, and engaging in such fantastic stewardship, Westwoods will be there for all of us to enjoy, for years and hopefully centuries to come.

Finally, I feel inspired to note that Leopold was an alumnus of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies!