Leopold A Sand County Almanac - A SAND OUNTY ALMANAC With...

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Unformatted text preview: - A SAND OUNTY ALMANAC With EBfl' 9:: Conservation from Round River ' ALDO LEOPOLD Illustrated by Charles W. Schwartz l BALIANTINE BOOKS '3 NEW YORK '1 36 : The Qudfly'of Lam Again, dieiewas The Campbell Blue; a headwater- of the Bluelfimer to which an: earlymwman had broughthimself-a bride. The lady, tiring-of rocks and lrees,had yéarned-for a piano. A piano was duly fetched, a: Gamphe'll piano. There-was Only one mule in the county capable of packing it, and only one packer capable'of'the almost superhuman task ofbal— ancing such a load. But the piano failed to bring contentinent; the lady decamped; andwhen the story Wasmldmdtheranch mhinwasalreadyaruinof 'mggingloga f ' - ' ' ' Again there was 'Frijole Cienega,’ a marshymea— dow walled in by pines, underwhich stood, in my day, asmalllog oabinuSed'by'anypasseeryas an oven nighteamp. It was the unwritten law far the comer of sucli' m] ante to-lave flour, lard,'and bans, and for the passer-by to replenish Such stock as he could. But one lucltless traveler, trapped there for a week by storms, had found only hearts. This breach 'of hospitality was suflicient‘ly notable to be handed down to history as a place name. Finally, there was “Paradise Banch,’ an obvious plat- itude when read from amp, but something quite different when you arrived there at the end of a hard ride. It' lay tucked away on the far side of a high peak, as any proper paradise should. Through its ver— dant meadows meandered a singing trout stream. A horse left foréa month on this meadow waxed so fat that'rain-water gathered in a' pool on his back. After my first visit'to Paradise Ranch I remarked to my- self: what else Could you call it? ' 3- 3- ¥ .1' Arizona and New Mention 137 Despite several opportunities to do so, I have never returned to the White -Mountain. I prefer not to see I ' what burials, roads, sawmills, and logging—railroads ‘_ have done for it, :or to it. I hear young 'pe0ple, not yet born when I first rode out ‘on top,’ exclairn about it as a wonderful place. To this, With an unspoken mental reservation, .I agree. Thinking Like a Mountain A deep chesty bowl echOes from rimroclr to rimroek, rollsdown the mountain, and fades into the far black- ness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sor- row, and of contempt 'for all the adversities of the world. I ' Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed-to that call. To the deer it is a re- minder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a fore- cast of midnight scams and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the eowrnan a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet. Yet héhind these obvious and immediate hops and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. ‘ Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen ob- jectively to the howl of a Wolf. ‘ Those unable to decipher the hidden meaning know nevertheless that it is there, for it is felt in all wolf emintry, and distinguishes that country from all other land. It tingles in the spine of all who hear wolves by night, or who seen their tracks by day. Even with- out sight or sound of wolf, it is implicit in a hundred ___._..a' Arm «in! New Mm 139 ._aeem thegteenfimdnlsensedthatmflwr molfngethemountamagreedmthsudlam .i‘. --‘ I! n-thenlhamlwedtoseestateaftermmrpate wolvealhavewatchefl the faceafmanyanewly lfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slapes .wfinklewith-amazeofnewdeertrafls. I-haygseen myechhkhushandseedhnghruwsed,__ qtoan— themtdepfxdlmgmhthehound ofafleemgdeer the my. shadows lie under tlhaspnmes. Only the; -.-in-. _ educahle tyre can fail to sense thepresenoeorahsmoe of wolves; or the fact that mountain's have a- secret " oPinion about them. ' - Myownconvictionon thissooredatesfromtheda Isawa-wolfdie Wewereeating lunchonahigh fimro'clt, atthefootofwhichatmhulmtriverelhdvved itSway. Wemwwhatwethoughtwasadoe fording the torrent, her breast- awash m white water. When shedunWthehanktowaxdusanflshOOiouther tail “teammate: ltwasawolf 'Ahalf- doaenoth" ewdentlygrownpups spmngfrom the wfllowsatrallpmeflmaflfl_ ' L.;-_§-_' .r aernic desuetude, and then to fleathr Ihh’ve'seen ' everyedlbletreedefohatedmtheheaghtofasaddle- were pumpmg load .mte the. pack, but with more emtement than -' man-hw- l-iflfi: . .:. u-gfi.‘ Wemchedtlmoldwolfmmnetowatchafieme greenfiredymgmhereyes Irenhnedthelyandhave knowneveranoe thattherewasmethmgnewmme inthomt .ethmgknownoulymheandmthc hoped—for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach With the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers. I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulleddown by wolves can be re- placed in two or three years, a range pulled down by 3:331:13! deer may far] of replacement in as many So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of Wolves does not realize that .he' is taking over the wolf's job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence wehave dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea. * a: Arizona and New Mm’ 141 .We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the comaan with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing; peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this isthe hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, IOng known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men . Escudilla Life in Arizona was bounded under foot by grama grass, overhead by sky, and on the horizon by Escu— dilla. To the north of the mountain you rode on honey— colored plains. Look-up anywhere, any time, and you saw Escudilla. ' To the east you rode over a confusion of wooded mesas. Each hollow seemed its own small world, soaked in sun, fragrant with juniper, and cozy with the chatter of pifion jays. But top out on' a ridge and you at once became a speck in an immensity. On its edge hung Escudilla. _ To the south lay the tangled canyons of Blue River, full of Whitetails, wild turkeys, and wilder cattle. When you missed a saucy buck waving his goodbye The Land Ethic . WHEN oon—LmEOd ysseusretumed from the ;.- warsinTroy,hehanged allontmeropeadozen slave-girls of his household whom he suspected of misbehavior during his absence. This hanging involved no question of propriety. Thegirlswereproperty. Thedislaosalofproperty was then, as now, a matter of expediency, not of rightmdwrong. Concepts of right and wrong were not lacking from Odysseus’ Greece. witness the fidelity of his wife through the long years heforo at last his black- prawed galleys clove the wine-dark sees for home. The ethical structure of that day covered wives, but hadnotyetbeenextendedtohumanchattels. During the three thousand years which have sihce elapsed, ethical criteria have been extended to many fields of conduct, with corresponding shrinkages in those ! judged by expediency only» i 237 l This expansion of ethics, so far studied only by philosophers, is actually a process in ecological evolu— tion. Its sequences may be described in ecclogical as well as in philosophical terms. An ethic, ecologically, is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence. An ethic, philosoPhically, is a differentia- tion of social from anti-social conduct. These are two definitions'of one thing. The thing has its origin in the tendency of interdependent individuals or groups to evolve modes of cooperation. The ecologist calls these symbioses. Politics and economics are advanced tion has been replaced, in part, by cooperative mechanisms with an ethical content. The complexity of cooperative mechanisms has increased with population density, and with the eas— . ciency of tools. It was simpler, for example, to define the antisocial uses of sticks and stones in the days of the mastodons than of bullets and billboards in the age of motors. The first ethics dealt with the relation between individuals; the Mosaic Decalogue is an example. Later accretions dealt with the relation between the individual and society. The Golden Rule tries to inte- grate the individual to society; democracy to integrate social organization to the individual. There is as yet no ethic dealing with man's rela- tion to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it. Land, like Odysseus' slave-girls, is still pmperty. The land~relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations. l l | I The land Ethic 239 The extension of ethics to this third element in human environment is, if I read the evidence correctly, an evolutionary possibility and an ecological neces- sity. It is the third step-in a Sequence..The first two have already been taken. Individual thinkers since the days of Ezekiel and Isaiah have asserted that the despoliation of land is not only inexpedient but wrong. Society, however, has notth affirmed their belief. I. regard the present conservatiou movement as the embryo‘of such an afiirmation. ' AnethiCmaybereg-aidedasamode ofgmdanoe for meeting ecological situations so new or intricate, or involving such deferred reactions, that the path of social expediency is not discernible to the average individual. Animal instincts are modcsol" guidance for the individual-in meeting such situations. Ethics are possibly a kind of community instinct in-the-rnalung. The Community Concept 'All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt hm! to compete for his place in the community, boil-3;: ethics prompt him also to cooperate (perhaps in . that there maybe a placeto compete for). The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land. _ _ 1 This sounds simple: do we not already 51113011; ove for and obligation to the land of the free and the ome of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we .- 24° = 'W‘UP‘W love? Certaihly not the soil, which we are sending helterskeIEBi dowiir'iver. Gertainly not the waters, which we, I me have no hinction except to turn tur- bines, float ' and carry 03" sewage. Certainly not the plains, 'of Which We exterminate whole 00m- munitie; without batting an eye. Certamly not the animals, of Which We have already extirpated many of the largest and most heautihil Species. A land ethic of course {cannot prevent the alteration, man— agement, and use of these 'resources,’ but it does aflinu their : right 'to continued existence, and, at least in Spots, their continued existence in a natural state. ' ' In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapierts from conQueror of the landmmmunity to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also rapect for the community assuch. In human history, we have learned (I hepe) that the conqueror role is eventually selfdefeafing. Why? Because it is implicit in such a role that the conqueror knows,-ex cathedra,.'just what makes the community clock tick, and just What and who is valuable, and what and who is worthless, in community life. It al- Ways'tums out that he knows neither, and this is why his conquests eventually defeat themselves. In the biotic community, a parallel situation exists. Abraham knew exactly what the land was for: it was to drip milk and honey into Abraham’s mouth. At the present moment, the assurance with which we re- gard this assumption is inverse to the degree of our education. ' The ordinary citizen today assumes that science The hand Ethic 141. knows what makes the community clock tick; the scientist is equally sure that he does not. He knows that the biotic mechanism is so complex that its workings may never be fully understood. That man is, in fact, only a member of a biotic team is shown by an ecological interpretation of his— tory. Many historical events, hitherto explained solely in terms of human enterprise, were actually biotic interactions between people and land. The charac- teristics of the land determined the facts quite as potently as the characteristics of the men who lived On it. Consider, for example, the settlement of the Mis- sissippi valley. In the years following the Revolution, three groups were contending for its control: the native Indian, the. French and English traders, and the American settlers. Historians wonder what would have happened if the English at Detroit had thrown a little mare weight into the Indian side of those tipsy scales which decided the outcome of the colonial migration into the cane-lands of Kentucky. It is tune now to ponder the Fact that the cane-lands, when sub— jected to the particular mixture of forces represented by the cow, plow, fire, and axe of the pioneer, be- came bluegrass. What if the plant successron inherent in this dark and bloody ground had, under the im— pact of these forces, given us some worthless sedge, shrub, or weed? Would Boone and Kenton have held out? Would there have been any overflow into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri? Any Louisrana Pur- chase? Any transcontinental union of new states? _ Any Civil War? Kentucky was one sentence in the drama of history. r4: ' , The 'Upskat Waste commonly told what the human actors in this drama tried to do, but we areseldorn told that their success; or the lack of it, hung in large degree on the reaction of particular soils to'the impact of the particular forces exerted by their" occupancy. In the case of Kentucky, we do not even know where the bluegrass came flour—whether it is a native spe— cies, or a Stowaway from Europe. Contrast the cane-lands with what hindsight tells us about the Southwest, where the pioneers were equally brave, resourceful, and persevering. The im- pact of occupancy here brought no bluegrass, or other - plant fitted to withstand the bumps and bulietin'gs of hard useJThis region, when grazed by livestock, reverted through a series of more and more worthless grasses, shrubs, and weeds to a condition of unstable equilibrium. Each recession of plant types bred ero- sion; each hummer“ to erosion bred a'turt'hermges'. sion of plants. The result today is 'a piogressiv'e and mutual deterioration, not only of plants and soils, but of the animal community subsiSting thereon. The early settlers: did not expect this: on the ciénegas of New Mexico some even cut ditches to hasten it. So subtle has been its progress that few residentsof the region are aware of .it. It is quite invfible to the tour- ist who finds this wrecked landscape colorful and channing (as indeed it is, but it bears scant resem- blance to what it was in 1848). ' This same; landscape was ‘developed' once before, but with quite dilferent results. The Pueblo Indians settled the Southwest in pro-Colombian times, but they happened not to be equipped with range liire- The Land Ethic 2.43 stock. Their civilization expired, but not because their land expiied. In India, regions devoid of any sod-forming grass have been settled, apparently without wreclun- ' g the land, by the simple expedient of marrying the grass to the cow, rather than vice versa. (Was this the result of some deep wisdom, or was it just good luck? I do not know.) In short, the plant succession steered the course of history; the pioneer simply demonstrated, for good . or ill, what successions inbered in the land. ls history taught in this spirit? It will be, once the concept of land as a community really penetrates our intellectual life. The Ecological Conscience Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. DesPite nearly a century of propaganda, con- servation still at a snail's pace; progress still consists largely of letterhead pieties and convention oratory. On the back forty we still slip two steps backward for each forward stride. ‘ Theusual answertothisdilemmais more con- servation education.’ No one will debate this, but is it certain that only the volume of education needs . stepping up? Is something lacking in the content as well? . It is difficult to give a fair summary of its content in brief form, but, as I understand it, the content is substantially this: obey the law, vote right, }011_'1 some organizations, and practice what conservation is prol- 344 The upshot "itable .on- "your own land; the government will do Is not‘vthié'formula tooeasy to accomplish anything wortlnarhile? It defines no right or wrong, assigns no obligation, calls for no sacrifice, implies no change in the curra'at philosophy 0F values. in respect of land- use, it urges only enlightened self-interest. Just how far will such education take us? An example will perhaps yieldapartial answer. - By l930§it had become clear to all except the ecologically blind that southwestern Wisconsin’s top- soil was slipping seaward. In 1933 the farmers were told that if they would adopt certain remedial prac- tices for five years, the public would donate GOG labor to install them, plus the necessary machinery and materials. The other was widely accepted, but thepractices were widely Forgotten when the five— year 'contraCt period was up. The fanners continued only those practices that yielded an immediate and visible economic gain for themselves. This led to the idea that maybe farmers would learn more quickly if they themselves wrote the rules. Accordingly the Wisconsin Legislature in 1937 passed the Soil Conservation District law. This said to Farm- ers, in effects We, the public, will furnish you free technical service and loan you specialized machinery, ifyouwilliwiteyourmmlesforland—use. Each county'may :write'its own rules, and these will have the force of law. Nearly all the counties promptly organized to accept the proliered help, but after a decadeoioperation,nocouutyhasyetwriuena single rule. There has been visible progress in such practices as strip-cropping, pasture renovation, and Tire [and Eds? 245 soil liming, but none in fencing woodlots against gm. -ing,andnoneineanrludingplowao_dcowfromsteep slopes. The-farmers, inshorr, have selected thme m dial Predicts which were profitable anyhow, and i3. nored those which were profitable to the community, but not clearly profitable to themselves. When one asks why Ito-rules have been written, oneistoldtharrhecommunityisnoryetreadyto support them; education must precede rules. But the cducuion actually in progress makes no mention of obligationsoolandoverandabovethosedictatedby Self-interest. The net result is that we have more edu- cation but less soil, fewer healthy woods, and as many floods as in 1937. The puzzling aspect of such situations is that the u- istence of obligations over and above self-interest is takenforgranrcdinsuchruralcommunityenttrptisesas the berrermenr ofroads, schools, clmrches, and baseball teams.'1beirexistenceisnottalrenforgrantcd,noras yet seriously discussed, in bettering the behavior of the water thatfalls on the land, or in the preserving of thebeautyordiversityofthefimlandscape. [and- use ethics are still governed wholly by economic self- interest, just as social ethics were a century ago. To sum up: we asked the farmer to do what he conveniently could to save his soil, and he has done iusr that, and only that. The farmer ivho clears the wmdsoEa75 pertent slope, turnshis cows into the clearing, and dumps its rainfall, rocks, and soil into the community creek, is still (if otherwise decent) a respected member of society. If he puts linie on his fields and plants his crops on contour, he is still 145 . . The .Upshot entitled toj all theprivileges andemoluments of his Soil C(mseirvation District. The ...
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