A Dose of Leopold

I like all my metaphors for bureaucracy to be in the language of game hunting.

Aldo Leopold with dog

I had a bird dog named Gus. When Gus couldn’t find pheasants he worked up an enthusiasm for Sora rails and meadowlarks. This whipped-up zeal for unsatisfactory substitutes masked his failure to find the real thing. It assuaged his inner frustration.
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We conservationists are like that. We set out a generation ago to convince the American landowner to control fire, to grow forests, to manage wildlife. He did not respond very well. We have virtually no forestry, and mighty little range management, game management, wildflower management, pollution control, or erosion control being practiced voluntarily by private landowners. In many instances the abuse of private land is worse than it was before we started. If you don’t believe that, watch the strawstacks burn on the Canadian prairies; watch the fertile mud flowing down the Rio Grande; watch the gullies climb the hillsides in the Palouse, in the Ozarks, in the riverbreaks of southern Iowa and western Wisconsin.
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To assuage our inner frustration over this failure, we have found us a meadowlark. I don’t know which dog first caught the scent; I do know that every dog on the field whipped into an enthusiastic backingpoint. I did myself. The meadowlark was the idea that if the private landowner won’t practice conservation, let’s build a bureau to do it for him.
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Like the meadowlark, this substitute has its good points. It smells like success. It is satisfactory on poor land which bureaus can buy. The trouble is that it contains no device for preventing good private land from becoming poor public land. There is danger in the assuagement of honest frustration; it helps us forget we have not yet found a pheasant.
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I’m afraid the meadowlark is not going to remind us. He is flattered by his sudden importance.
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Aldo Leopold, “The Round River”
Posted by Brian on September 20th, 2010 • • Comments Off

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