Celebrate the legacy of Aldo Leopold and the grand opening of the North Huron Birding Trail at the second annual Aldo Leopold Festival in the Upper Peninsula from May 13 to 15.

The months Leopold spent with his family each year on Marquette Island in the Les Cheneaux area inspired his essays on land ethics, naturalism and responsible ways of participating in the living ecosystems around us. During the festival, attendees will explore the island chains, marshlands and shorelines which influenced his work.

Weekend activities include guided birding trips and wildflower walks, a kayak-bike-run triathlon, bird house workshops, raptor presentations and miles of open hiking throughout scenic nature preserves. There will also be several presentations on Northern Michigan’s natural history:

  • “Native Orchids of the Eastern U.P.” – Learn how to find and identify over 40 species of wild orchids native to the Eastern U.P. in this program led by Dr. Steven Baker.
  • “Beautiful Birds of the Eastern U.P.” – View a phenomenal photographic display by local professional photographer, Mr. Paul Rossi.
  • “Migration of Land Birds in the Great Lakes Region: Natural History and Conservation” – Learn about strategies to protect and manage sites with high concentrations of migrant birds in the Great Lakes Region with Dr. Dave Ewert.
  • “The Storyteller’s Night Sky” – Gather at sunset with Star Lore Historian and International Dark Sky Park Program Director, Mary Stewart Adams, to hear spring star stories.

On Saturday, May 12, the new North Huron Birding Trail will be dedicated at noon at the Hessel School. Continuing from birding trails along the lower peninsula’s Lake Huron shore, the North Huron Birding Trail is a 150-mile trail stretching from the Straits of Mackinac to the central region of the eastern Upper Peninsula. Areas along the trail are home to shoreline species, migratory and breeding songbirds and the state’s highest population of Sharp-tailed Grouse.

Click here for a full schedule of events. Visit lescheneaux.org or lescheneaux.net to find cottages or motel rooms, as well as special discount offers for the festival weekend. A photo of a young Aldo Leopold provided by the Aldo Leopold Festival.

We talked with Caroline Crecelius, a member of the planning committee, to find out more about the Aldo Leopold Festival and his legacy.

What does Aldo Leopold’s work as an author, conservationist, ecologist and environmentalist mean to the Les Cheneaux area community?

“Based on my work with the festival planning committee over the last several months, I would say that Aldo Leopold’s work as a writer and ecologist holds continuing significance for many community members in the Les Cheneaux area. While his name and publications, such as A Sand County Almanac, are well known here as in other places across the country, many locals also seem to feel a personal connection to Leopold because of the time he spent in the Les Cheneaux region during his youth and young adulthood. Beginning in the early 1890s. Leopold’s family made annual trips to Marquette Island, where Aldo spent the majority of his time exploring his surroundings by foot and canoe. The intimate relationship he developed with the Les Cheneaux environment is reflected in his journal entries, letters, drawings, maps and photographs from that time, many of which are accessible to the public through the Aldo Leopold Foundation archives, and this relationship was also formative to his later ideas and essays concerning land ethics and environmentalism.”

Do you see his idea of “land ethics” being practiced in the Upper Peninsula?

“I do see these ideas practiced and honored by people in the Upper Peninsula, though not solely under the Leopold heading. This is a good thing, and reflective of the deeply diverse history of voices advocating for respectful human-environment relationships in this area, including those of Anishinaabeg leaders and community members who continue to sustain these relationships through cultural, linguistic and subsistence practices . Aldo Leopold’s land ethic draws attention to the fact that humans are part of a larger community, emphasizing the importance of human-environmental interaction in creating healthy relationships between people and their surroundings. Part of what makes the Les Cheneaux region unique is the particular relationship that individuals and families have developed and sustained with the woods, shorelines and waterways of this primarily rural area. The significance of these relationships is evident when planning events such as the Aldo Leopold Festival, as we have drawn on a wealth of local knowledge and expertise in putting together programs on the diversity of seasonal birds, flowers, micro-ecosystems and other ecological resources in our region.”

What would Aldo have thought about the North Huron Birding Trail?

“In my opinion, Aldo would have thought the North Huron Birding Trail was a positive development in the Les Cheneaux region. From what I’ve read in his essays and other archival collections of journals and letters, Aldo Leopold was most concerned with the interactive element of relationship building between people and their environments. Trails provide people with opportunities to explore their surroundings individually, or in the company of others, in all seasons. The first step in building a body of knowledge about a place is forming a relationship with it, and that takes time. In this respect, the North Huron Birding Trail will be a great asset to our community’s residents and visitors alike, and we are excited to familiarize people with our local trails and preserves during the festival weekend. It will be a great time to explore the wide variety of migratory birds and flowering plants that grace our area in May.”

For more information on the Aldo Leopold Festival and events…

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Photo(s) by Aldo Leopold Festival