Wisconsin has been home to many major figures in environmental thought, including Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson. Although difficult to summarize the groundbreaking nature and lasting influence of such important conservationists, the Leopold Center in Baraboo, WI provides tremendous resources on the life, inspiration, and ideas of Aldo Leopold. Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day and the namesake of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s environmental institute, served as governor and senator of Wisconsin. Through his long and influential political career, Gaylord brought environmental issues into the national agenda.
The Wisconsin Idea
One of the central principles of the University of Wisconsin system can be summed up as the “Wisconsin Idea”. In essence, the Wisconsin Idea holds that education should extend far beyond classroom walls and should aspire to connect academic theory to tangible impact. For a more thorough description and history of the Wisconsin Idea, the University of Wisconsin has an excellent overview available online.
Our goal as conservation biologists is to integrate our collective legacy with present and future conditions. Key issues on the Wisconsin landscape include controlling invasive species, balancing new development with conserving existing biodiversity, protecting ecologically-significant sites, and ensuring that policies such as hunting quotas and extractive industry regulations are scientifically-informed.