It’s been 125 years since Aldo Leopold was born, but his work and words are just as timely, eloquent and inspiring today as they were nearly a century ago.
The UW-Madison Arboretum — where Leopold helped establish a pioneering experiment in ecological restoration — will host Madison Reads Leopold, a public reading from Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac” on Saturday, March 3, in celebration of Aldo Leopold Weekend.
Published more than 60 years ago, “A Sand County Almanac” has prompted generations of people to take better notice and care of the natural environment.
An eclectic mix of citizen and celebrity readers will give voice to selected essays detailing Leopold’s conservation philosophy and his observations of plant and animal life cycles.
Now in its seventh year, the Madison event will include the well-known “calendar” essays, as well as pieces chosen for their relevance to the Arboretum and the Dane County area.
Kevin McSweeney, director of the Arboretum, will read excerpts from the address given by Leopold at the Arboretum’s dedication on June 17, 1934.
Other highlights include readings by Aldo’s granddaughter Madelyn Leopold; former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz; Ron Seely of the Wisconsin State Journal; Marie McCabe, widow of Leopold’s colleague Bob McCabe; Chuck Quirmbach, environment reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio; and students, educators, naturalists and representatives of community organizations.
The event begins at 9:30 a.m. in the auditorium at the Arboretum Visitor Center, 1.2 miles east of the entrance at 1207 Seminole Highway. A reading of the concluding essay, “The Outlook,” is scheduled for 2:47 p.m. The daylong event is structured to be friendly to drop-in visitors, but many hard-core Leopold fans stay for all six hours.
Thanks to sponsorship by Pheasants Forever and the Aldo Leopold Foundation, Madison Reads Leopold is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be available in the visitor center lobby, but brown bagging is permitted.
A detailed schedule of readers and essays will be posted at www.uwarboretum.org/events. Reading aloud is an inexact science, so all reading times are approximate. Listeners wishing to hear a particular reader should plan to be at the Arboretum at least 10 minutes in advance of their scheduled time.
The Arboretum will also offer a free “Walk with Leopold” tour at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Leopold archive materials and artifacts from the UW’s extensive collection will be on display in the reading room; conservation-related organizations are invited to bring literature for display on tables in the lobby.
The first weekend in March was chosen as Leopold Weekend, because March 4, 1948, is the date Leopold appended to his foreword to the Almanac. It would be the last piece of writing he contributed to the book. Six weeks later he died of an apparent heart attack.
Leopold Weekend in Wisconsin began in Lodi in 2000, when Tom Heberlein, a now-retired UW–Madison rural sociology professor organized “Lodi Reads Leopold.” This year more than 20 communities around Wisconsin and several out-of-state venues will hold celebrations.
For more information on Madison Reads Leopold festivities, call the Arboretum at 608-263-7888.