Land Ethic Leaders Training Coming to Sagehen

people examining a bug net

Interest in nature can spark reflections about conservation. Image credit: Aldo Leopold Foundation

In A Sand County Almanac, pioneering conservationist Aldo Leopold set forth his enduring idea of the “land ethic.” The ethic is a shift from considering humans to be conquerers of the land to being ordinary members of the natural world. Leopold always resisted defining the shift itself. Instead, he believed it should evolve “in the minds of a thinking community.”

The Aldo Leopold Foundation has developed a training to carry this conversation about humans and the land into the twenty-first century. The Foundation will offer a Land Ethic Leaders Training on June 1-3 this summer at the UC Natural Reserve System’s Sagehen Creek Field Station. The workshop is presented in partnership between the Aldo Leopold Foundation, the Northern Sierra Partnership, and Sagehen Creek Field Station.

The two-day program will teach community leaders how to lead reflective discussions on complex and changing environmental issues. Participants will learn new ways to discuss collective values and critical environmental issues using literature, film, and artwork.

people sitting in a circle of chairs talking
Workshop participants learn to lead discussions about conservation values and environmental issues. Image credit: Aldo Leopold Foundation

Workshop participants explore the relationship between human communities and the land at a deeper level. Paired with nature observation and land restoration work, these discussions offer a new way to engage and build the “thinking community.” The workshop focuses on giving participants the skills, tools, and confidence to help others explore their individual and collective connections to the land.

The Value of Discussion
Much discussion of environmental issues in American society today focuses on identifying problems and formulating solutions. It is prescriptive rather than reflective. Little time or space is given to contemplating the root causes of these problems, their ethical implications, or personal and communal connections with the natural world. Working on conservation—whether through education, community outreach, research, or restoration—can be gratifying, but it can also be emotionally draining. Deep understanding and knowledge of the full implications of the ecological problems before us can lead to a feeling of helplessness and disengagement, a sentiment that affects professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Land Ethic Leaders Training Coming to Sagehen 1
Crimson columbine (Aquilegia formosa) Image credit: NRS Collections

The Land Ethic Leaders program attempts to directly address this issue by giving you a chance to explore, question, and reaffirm your beliefs and values, deepening your commitment to conservation and your communities. The program also aims to empower you to create similar dialogues in your own towns and workplaces, and get people talking about conservation in deeper, more meaningful ways.

Goals of the Program
• Learn to use your own caring and connection to the land to inspire others and help to create reflective dialog about our collective conservation values.
• Learn to use observation, participation, and reflection as a systematic method for connecting or reconnecting people with the land. Explore, renew, and deepen your own personal connections to the land.
• Engage with a community of your peers from a variety of places and backgrounds. Learn to guide reflective discussions that build community around shared conservation values.

What You’ll Take Away
• Skills and confidence in leading reflective discussions on conservation values;
• Tools to organize community-based events that connect people and land;
• A public screening license and resource kit to help show the film Green Fire, about Aldo Leopold and the land ethic,  in your community;
• The ability to express your own definition of a land ethic and the confidence to help others develop theirs;
• New friends and links to a network of Land Ethic Leaders across the country and around the world.

backpacker in the Sierra Nevada
Interest in the outdoors can be an entry point for reflective discussions about the land ethic. Image credit: Max Eissler

Your Commitment
Participants are asked to plan an event or series of activities using specific tools and techniques from the workshop, within one year of attending Land Ethic Leaders. The goal is to engage with various members of the community not only to introduce Leopold’s ideas, but to discuss them in depth. Target audiences for events may range from the general public, to co-workers or students, to groups or clubs.

The $350 workshop fee includes all meals, lodging, program materials, and a public screening license and kit for Green Fire ($150 value).

Training Details
Sagehen Creek Field Station
Fri-Sun, June 1-3, 2012
Program begins Friday evening and ends Sunday afternoon.

Visit to register or contact Jeannine Richards at or 608.355.0279, ext. 25 for more information.