Friday, March 23, 2007

Our Pines Now Paper

My love for Aldo Leopold's pine trees may seem absurd to some. After all, I've never seen them, and they are, some would say, just trees. The fact that Leopold and his family planted them as part of their personal campaign to rehabilitate a patch of farmed-out Wisconsin may not impress my detractors, either. But I like to think that any reader, tree-philic or not, would value those particular trees after reading Leopold's reflections in his essay, "Pines Above the Snow." Since reading those passages in A Sand County Almanac, I have known just what Leopold means when he says, "I love all trees, but I am in love with pines."

So it was with trepidation that I read the cover article in the latest newsletter of The Aldo Leopold Foundation, "Printed on Pine: A Special Edition of A Sand County Almanac." Managers of Leopold's land decided that the pine stand needed thinning "to promote the health and longevity of the strongest trees," and the felled trees have been crafted into beams for the new Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, opening April 22 in Baraboo. Wood pulp from the harvest has also been processed into paper to print a unique edition of Leopold's Almanac.

The paper was processed with an experimental technique without chlorine or sulfer treatments, then mixed with pulp from other types of trees to create archival quality paper. And money from the limited edition hardcover, priced tentatively at $750, will benefit the Foundation's educational and land stewardship efforts. I think that Leopold, who advocated sustained use, not naive preservation, would approve of this thoughtful step toward sustaining his land and legacy. And with his fine, philosphical mind, honed by many strokes of his ax, he could even have watched the careful harvest. But while I'd love to own one of those special books, I'm glad I was too far away to see those pine trees fall.

1 comment:

Marybeth said...

As a lover of Leopold and pines, I can commiserate with your sadness over the loss of any of the hand-planted Leopold pines for any reason. But having been to his daughter Nina's house on the Shack property, and having listened to her lovingly comment upon touching her mantle of rough-hewn pine -- "This one mom planted," -- I have a slightly different response. That pine log for the mantle, too, had been thinned to allow the other pines around it to grow stronger, taller, older. It gave me such immense pleasure to touch that pine and feel a sense of Estella's and Aldo's love come full circle, to give their daughter this daily physical gift and memory of their values and legacy. They had truly, in a harmonious way, not only grown a forest and a family, but also a physical home for their daughter. And they had done this together -- as a family.

How many parents can say that? And the parents helped heal the world Nina has to live in, as she is trying to do for her children, and everyone's children.

I was honored to be able to walk around the Shack land and see its health. Leopold was a forester and believed in responsible use as well as replanting for the continuation of the cycle. So it was appropriate to have both aspects of conservation management at work at those acres, proving that the ax does not always have to be considered a tool of destruction. The original pines were also replanting themselves, so that the naturally planted pines were themselves part of the Leopold legacy and they had a healthier environment, perhaps, in which to grow because they weren't overcrowded.

Finally, it's a wonderful concept for Leopold the writer, to have also grown his own book. He worried that for his books to be published he was decimating a tropical forest somewhere for the pages. But this new ALMANAC will carry none of that burden of guilt. It's a sustainable book, hand-planted physically by the author. Another full circle of value and responsibility. Would that I could live so well and plant so much as to leave such a legacy of restoration.

So I do not mourn the loss of those pines so much as admire their new lives and the visionaries who made them come to be. In my garden grows some offspring of the prairie baptisa that was handplanted at the Shack land, to help save a portion of the prairie. I consider these offspring as precious as the originals, just as I hope my children will value and help carry on some of the spirit of conservation my husband and I are trying to pass on to them.

Marybeth Lorbiecki