Restoration Ecology Professor Says Society Needs a Wetland Ethic

Perhaps it is time for a wetland ethic, to compliment Aldo Leopold’s famous Land Ethic.  So suggests Joy Zedler, Aldo Leopold Chair of Restoration Ecology at the UW-Madison Arboretum.

Many of us know about Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic–the essay in his classic book, “A Sand County Almanac”, which called for a new relationship between humans and the rest of nature. Leopold’s Land Ethic has transformed the way many of us think about our lives and how to live them in harmony with the land and the rest of nature.

Leopold’s essay, The Land Ethic, rang out with these inspiring words:  ” A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” (Leopold, 1949).   Although Leopold may have called it a Land Ethic, he clearly  was also thinking of wetlands in his definition of a new ethic.  “Land then, it is not merely soil,” he said, ” it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soil, plants, and animals.” He goes on in the same essay to say: ” Waters, like soil, are part of the energy circuit.”

Regardless,  some portions of society apparently did not get the memo because wetlands still need our increased protection.  Zedler reminds us that “the lower 48 states have lost half of their wetlands.” And, she adds, despite the protections of the Clean Water Act, wetlands are still being filled-in, built upon, and polluted with contaminants from storm water and other sources.  Click here for Zedler’s  full article calling for a wetland ethic.


Leopold, Aldo. 1949.  A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There.  Oxford University Press.

Zedler. J.B.  A Wetland Ethic?  Leaflet #36, December, 2014  Arboretum Leaflets, UW-Madison Arboretum


About Steve Glass

The blogger is a restoration ecologist, Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner (#0093 SER) and writer living in the Midwestern United States.
This entry was posted in Aldo Leopold, Wetland protection and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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