The Land Ethic Reclaimed: Perceptive Hunting, Aldo Leopold, and Conservation

The rich history of wildlife management and recreational hunting plays an important role in the evolving face of conservation. This course will explore the ethics, science, and democracy of conservation, hunting, and The Land Ethic in North America.

About The Course

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
Aldo Leopold, 1948. A Sand County Almanac

Hunting has been a core conservation management tool in the United States since its founding. Indeed, "perceptive hunters" believe hunting should contribute to conservation rather than hinder it. As conservation science has improved, so have calls for understanding the role of game species in ecosystems, as well as in regional politics and economics. Deer, pheasant and elk are cultural icons because of their value to hunters, and are also a source of persistent controversy because of their role in complex ecological and economic systems.

Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, accepted a chair in game management at the University of Wisconsin and published a textbook in 1933 marking the emergence of wildlife conservation as a professional discipline. The scientific and ethical foundations laid down by Leopold fostered the emergence of a unique model for wildlife conservation in North America.

This course will provide students with an understanding of the historical legacy of wildlife management and recreational hunting as a part of conservation, the role of wildlife in ecosystems, the importance of ethics in guiding management decisions and hunter choices, and the politics and economics of controversies surrounding game and non-game management, hunting, and conservation. We will also look at the emerging face of hunting today, and contemporary models of conservation. The content draws on the expertise and experience of scholars, researchers, managers, and citizens in the overlapping spheres of applied ecology, policy, environmental and natural resource management.

All learners and "perceptive hunters" are encouraged and welcome to participate, whether they are active hunters, hunting-curious, or simply nature enthusiasts. We especially invite all who pursue participation in the wild ecology of one's place, who want to explore the American conservation model and Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic.