Sand County Anniversary

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Published on: May. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

1929, crisscrossing the state for six weeks as part of his survey of game of the north central states. He wrote his wife on January 9 from the Hotel Doniphan about his adventures during an ice storm in the Irish Wilderness, which he termed "the wildest remaining spot east of the plains." He also purchased an old cabin on the Current River a stone's throw south of the Arkansas border as a base for future family excursions.

The game survey documented the precarious state of wildlife in Missouri as of 1930. Although rabbits were abundant, Leopold was concerned about the decline of habitat for bobwhite quail and prairie chickens owing to the intensification of agriculture and the plowing of prairies. He particularly recommended a study of wild turkeys that could lead to their restoration. He also explained the critical need for a nonpolitical conservation commission to provide continuity of policy and leadership.

Leopold returned to Missouri for the next five Decembers with his brothers, his sons or friends for a week's quail hunt, using as a base the Current River shanty. While there, he painstakingly mapped the cover types and quail coveys for miles around as they changed from year to year. His visits grew less frequent after his purchase in 1935 of 80 acres along the Wisconsin River nearer his home, immortalized as "the shack" in A Sand County Almanac.

Between trips to Missouri, Leopold often corresponded with conservation officials and others he had met during his game survey, including Rudolf Bennitt and Werner Nagel, University of Missouri zoologists who in 1934 began a more comprehensive survey of the state's wildlife modeled on Leopold's survey.

After passage of the constitutional amendment creating Missouri's new conservation commission in 1936, Chairman E. Sydney Stephens invited Leopold to a meeting in St. Louis and apparently tried to persuade him to accept the key position as director, but Leopold was too committed to his work in Wisconsin to leave.

However, he almost certainly recommended the appointment of Irwin T. Bode, former head of fish and game in Iowa. Bode shared Leopold's convictions that for conservation to be effective it would have to be practiced on private lands throughout the state and that the role of government agencies was to foster research, demonstration and public outreach rather than simply acquire and manage land.

So it was that Leopold returned to Missouri in 1938 to celebrate the new commission, a new

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