Conservation and Community: Beyond the Public-Private Binary in the History of Land Conservation
by Curt Meine
In 1935, amid the crisis of the Dust Bowl, Aldo Leopold called for “the formulation of mechanisms for protecting the public interest in private land.” Even before then conservationists pursued their goals through various mechanisms that recognized shared interests in the land and ecological relationships that worked across legal and jurisdictional boundaries. Since then, they have fitfully come to understand that a wider variety of people, uses, and perspectives must be taken into account. Progress has been constrained by a mindset that reinforces a binary set of interests: private and public. Moving from this simple binary framing to a more flexible and nuanced view may allow conservationists to embrace a wider array of community-based approaches to conserving the public interest in private land. It may also allow historians to find new insights in the evolution of conservation science, policy, and ideas. Conservation biologist and environmental historian Curt Meine will discuss this reframing and the many new opportunities it presents.
Dr. Curt Meine is a conservation biologist, environmental historian, and writer based in Sauk County, Wisconsin. He serves as Senior Fellow with the Aldo Leopold Foundation and the Center for Humans and Nature; as Research Associate with the International Crane Foundation; and as Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over the last three decades he has worked with a wide array of organizations at the intersection of biodiversity conservation, agriculture, water, climate change, environmental justice, and community resilience. Meine has authored and edited several books, including the definitive biography Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work (1988/2010) and The Driftless Reader (2017). In his home landscape, he is a founding member of the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance.
Curt has provided a list of suggested readings related to the topic, available in PDF format.
The Lynn W. Day Distinguished Lectureship in Forest and Conservation History is sponsored by the Forest History Society, the Duke University Department of History, and Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment.