Sand County Anniversary

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Published on: May. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

But Aldo Leopold also had close professional and personal ties to Missouri. He hunted quail here and frequently returned with his family to a "shanty" along the Current River. More important: through his contacts and influence he inspired and guided the early conservation movement in Missouri.

In an address celebrating the first successful year of Missouri's new conservation commission, Leopold asked "Whither Missouri?" He then answered his question by saying, when wild crops "have become an expression of pride in land, then and not until then will we have conservation in Missouri."

Aldo Leopold in 1938 was already one of the nation's leading conservationists. He had risen to prominence as a professional forester in the Southwest, where he made a compelling case for the establishment of wilderness areas in the national forests. He also had argued for erosion control and led in developing a new field of game management modeled on forestry.

A professor at the University of Wisconsin, Leopold was considered the leading proponent of wildlife management in the nation. His contributions as an environmental thinker and advocate of a land ethic would peak with the posthumous publication in 1949 of A Sand County Almanac, a literary classic celebrating its 50th anniversary this fall.

Three of Aldo Leopold's four grandparents were Missourians. His great grandfather, Friedrich Runge, emigrated from Germany to Missouri in 1834 with his family, settling on a farm in the Femme Osage Valley in St. Charles County in the midst of Daniel Boone country. His paternal grandfather, Charles J.J. Leopold, came to Missouri on the same ship and a few years later married Runge's eldest daughter, Thusnelda.

The couple settled in Liberty, where Leopold ran a dram shop on the public square and later established a steam-driven rope walk. Charles Leopold's son Carl would marry his cousin Clara, daughter of Marie Runge, born and raised in the Femme Osage Valley, and Charles Starker of Burlington, Iowa, another German immigrant. To this union Aldo Leopold was born in 1887 in Burlington.

Whether Aldo Leopold visited Missouri during his Iowa youth we don't know. But in November 1926, a few years after his move from New Mexico to Wisconsin, he made a two-week hunting trip along the Current River with his two brothers, floating from Van Buren to Doniphan. It was the start of a long series of visits to Missouri that would by turns intrigue, dismay and delight him.

Leopold returned to Missouri in December

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