At first conference, and now, memory of Leopold lingers

By E. Leon Fisher, Dale A. Jones and Kathy M. Granillo

Manzano Mountains in New Mexico. ©Doug Aghassi

As The Wildlife Society prepares to hold its 24th Annual Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, three organizers recall planning the Society’s first independent conference, in the same city, in 1994. This is part two of a two-part series remembering that first conference.

As The Wildlife Society prepared for its first Annual Conference, the memory of Aldo Leopold played an important role.

As with this year’s conference, the inaugural conference was taking place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We all believed that Albuquerque was an excellent location for the conference. The Southwest Section of The Wildlife Society had been a strong and active part of the Society. The New Mexico and Arizona Chapters held their annual meetings jointly and were very well attended by both professionals and students.

Since 1936, TWS had always met as part of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference. When Harry Hodgdon, TWS’ executive director at the time, felt it was time for the organization to have its own conference, he met with two of us — Leon Fisher and Dale Jones — for lunch in Albuquerque and asked if we would be willing to chair it.

Aldo Leopold’s home sits in a historic district named for him in Albuquerque, where his presence is still felt. ©Leanne Yanabu

Both were Albuquerque residents. Leon was regional wildlife biologist for the Southwest region of the Forest Service and Dale was retired as the Forest Service’s national director of wildlife in Washington. Both were active TWS members and believed for many years that this was a much-needed event to strengthen the profession. Dale had served as TWS’ national president from 1983 to 1984. Leon was past president of the New Mexico Chapter and served on the TWS Certification Review Board.

Both Leon and Dale were very welcoming of this opportunity. Both thought for many years that this was an event much needed to strengthen the profession and further broader communication among wildlife professionals, researchers, and particularly students. And many of the organizers were struck by the close ties that Leopold, a legendary founder and early president of TWS, had with Albuquerque and the Southwest.

Leopold lived in New Mexico from 1909 to 1924. (His Albuquerque home, at 135 14th St. SW, sits a few blocks from the location of this year’s conference, within the Aldo Leopold Neighborhood Historic District and near the Aldo Leopold Forest.)

It was in New Mexico where, working for the Forest Service, Leopold helped establish the 755,000-acre Gila Wilderness Area within the Gila National Forest – the first such wilderness area in the world. Leopold founded both the Albuquerque Game Protective Association and the New Mexico Game Protective Association – two groups that evolved into the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

He formulated his memorable essay “Thinking like a Mountain” while working in the Southwest – a region that was close to his heart – and many of his early conservation concepts were organized here.

The poster, created by Gary Rasmussen, included a photo of Leopold, alongside an embossed gold foil seal with the Conference logo, a design created by wildlife biologist and artist Stevan Logsdon that was inspired by the Native American Zia sun symbol and a Native America bear design.

The poster included some of his stirring words as well, which inspired wildlifers then and now.

“Only the mountain has lived long enough,” it said, “to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.”

Dedicated to the memory of the late Laurel Kagan-Wiley, Jack Ward Thomas and Hal Salwasser, who contributed greatly to the success of this groundbreaking national conference. They are missed.