Sand County Foundation

Sand County Foundation

Sand County Foundation, located in Monona, Wisconsin, USA, is a non-profit private land conservation organization formed in 1965. Its work is inspired by world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold’s land management philosophy.


Sand County Foundation’s mission is to advance the use of ethical and scientifically sound land management practices and partnerships for the benefit of people and the ecological landscape.


It was a friendship between two men, neighboring landowners, in a weed-strewn sandy area in south central Wisconsin. These friends talked about their ideas on life, held some common beliefs, and shared a love of the land. One of these men was a Madison business owner, Tom Coleman, the other Aldo Leopold [Meine, Curt. "Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work". Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. ISBN 0299114945] . It was on this spent piece of land that Leopold wrote the famed "A Sand County Almanac" [Leopold, Aldo. "A Sand County Almanac". Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1949. ISBN 0195007778] .

In the early 1960s, Tom Coleman's son, Reed, and his friends, Howard Mead and Frank Terbilcox, upon witnessing the encroachment of lot development along the Wisconsin River, enlisted neighboring landowners to the "Shack" to create a living memorial by preserving the Aldo Leopold "Shack" property where Leopold did his writing and research. They further convinced the other landowners to allow the Foundation to do research and restoration to conserve the land as an integral unit. This piece of land is now known as the Leopold Memorial Reserve.

Today, the role of Sand County Foundation has expanded from caretaker of the Leopold Memorial Reserve to advising the managers of land in several countries.


Community Based Conservation Network (CBCN)

Sand County Foundation defines Community Based Conservation as a process by which landholders gain access and use rights to, or ownership of, natural resources; collaboratively and transparently plan and participate in the management of resource use; and achieve financial and other benefits from their stewardship.

The intellectual basis for Community Based Conservation emerged out of Africa where fledgling constitutional democracies endowed local communities with specific rights over natural resources. Some important conservation successes are recorded where relatively weak central governments encouraged villages or private land holders to develop commercial use of forests and wildlife. In North America examples of community-led enterprise development in rural areas are beginning to emerge. Where central government has offered flexible regulatory environments, local citizens have found ways to use resources sustainably while achieving protection of environmental values [ [] "Natural resources as community assets: Lessons from two continents"] .

Landholder Leaders

The Landholder Leaders Program provides recognition, assistance, and support to individual landowners who enhance the conservation value of their land. Under this program, the Foundation supports private individuals through two different projects:

Leopold Conservation Award (LCA) - The Leopold Conservation Award is presented in seven states (California [ [] California farmer receives top conservation honor] , Colorado [ [] San Isabel Ranch honored for conservation efforts] , Nebraska [ [] Leopold Conservation Award goes to Christens] , Texas [ [] Rancher says conservation efforts make most of rainfall] , Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming [ [] Leopold Conservation Award presented to Golden Willow Ranch] ) to private landowners who practice responsible land stewardship and management.

Leopold Stewardship Fund - The Leopold Stewardship Fund provides incentives for private landowners who improve habitat on their own land for imperiled species. The resources of the Leopold Stewardship Fund provide direct grants to landowners for securing professional assistance in planning and implementing scientifically sound conservation actions, for undertaking specific actions beneficial to imperiled species, and for complying with applicable legal and regulatory requirements.

Leopold Memorial Reserve (LMR)

Aldo Leopold, forester and wildlife ecologist, purchased an abandoned property on the banks of the Wisconsin River in 1935. There, Leopold initiated a land-use recovery from unprofitable farming to private land protection, wildlife management, and habitat rehabilitation.

When subdivision of floodplain lands close to Leopold’s “Shack” was starting to destroy in the early 1960s what Leopold had initiated, Reed Coleman, Leopold’s godson, along with a few friends and neighbors, took private action. They forged a voluntary alliance of neighboring landowners. Together they created the Leopold Memorial Reserve.

Today, this early land trust, located in Sauk County in south central Wisconsin, comprises about convert|1900|acre|km2 of private land. The Reserve represents a cooperative partnership between Sand County Foundation and other private landowners in and around the original Aldo Leopold farm and “Shack” written about in "A Sand County Almanac".

Sand County Foundation coordinates Reserve-wide management and landscape ecological research. For nearly 40 years, the various habitats on the Reserve’s private lands have been dedicated to conservation improvement. The lands are heavily used for landowner enjoyment, support of peer-reviewed quality research, long-term monitoring of savannas and grasslands, understanding of floodplain ecology, and support of incentive-based effort to improve the deer herd and its habitat.

Bradley Fund for the Environment

The Bradley Fund for the Environment is a partnership between Sand County Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. The Fund is intended to foster science-based environmental programs as possible solutions to major problems.

Pioneering Solutions

Sand County Foundation uses its Pioneering Solutions arena to construct, test, improve, and replicate new approaches (tools) to improve health of the land. The Foundation seeks means that are within the grasp of landholders’ financial capacity, as well as those that will provide reward to landholders who build upon Aldo Leopold’s call for a land ethic.

Examples of projects the Foundation has currently underway include:

Agricultural Incentives - Incentives through a market-based approach to assist farmers in lowering nutrient discharge from their working lands while improving profitability. This is supported by a number of funding and agency partners and is being deployed throughout the upper Midwest.

This project recently received the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Gulf Guardian Award in the Civic/Non-profit category [ [] U.S. EPA press release, regarding Sand County Foundation receiving the Gulf Guardian Award] .

Floodplain Rehabilitation - Rehabilitation of river floodplains by exercise of private rights to property. Sand County Foundation was involved in the restoration of Wisconsin's Baraboo River [ [] Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton speaks of the Baraboo River restoration] [] After 150 years, dams no longer interrupt Baraboo River] .


External links

* [ Official website]

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