MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. The conflict currently raging in Logan County over the compulsory poisoning of prairie dogs and the reintroduction of the Black-footed Ferret has a rich context.
In the 1940s, Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac and one of the founders of the modern environmental movement, argued for a "land ethic" that would expand our definition of "community" to include soil, water, plants, and animals. Such an ethic, he wrote, would "change the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it." He knew as he wrote that he was up against an opposing view, as evidenced by the soil erosion, water pollution, and plant-and-animal extinctions that were increasing, not decreasing, in his day. Nevertheless, he did everything he could to replace human self-centeredness with a morality sensitive to the rights of non-human creatures to exist and (in some areas) to exist in their natural state.
Leopold's embattled view was nothing new. The newspapers from the early days of Kansas are full of protests on behalf of wildlife. In 1872, the Hutchinson News