Director’s Note, September 2020

Photo of Karen Oberhauser, UW–Madison Arboretum director

Karen Oberhauser, UW–Madison Arboretum director (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW–Madison)

To the UW–Madison Arboretum Community,

A key feature of UW–Madison’s Smart Restart protocols is to promote our personal responsibility to each other. While there are diverse opinions on decisions to partially resume campus activities, the deliberations that have accompanied each step of the process have been thorough, science-based, and careful—and often painful, with the understanding and clear communication that things could change as COVID infection levels and our ability as a society to handle them change.

In so many ways, the sense of personal responsibility that needs to govern all of our actions during these complicated times mirrors Aldo Leopold’s land ethic. In his famous essay, written as the finale to A Sand County Almanac, he championed the need to develop a sense of responsibility and caring for the natural world. At its core, the land ethic emphasizes the importance of caring for communities of people and the land, and strengthening the relationships between them.

Throughout the pandemic, the Arboretum has provided a safe place to carry out some ordinary and comforting activities—hiking through a prairie or forest, watching spring then summer come and go, and observing animals and plants in this shared space. We are grateful to our visitors who conduct themselves in a way that recognizes their personal responsibility, for each other and for the natural world. While our Visitor Center has remained closed as part of UW–Madison measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, we hope that your visits have helped you weather the pandemic and nurtured your relationship with the land.

Our responsibility to the land, and by extension to everyone who visits or learns from our work, continues. You can read more about what the land care crew is doing during the time of COVID—one way that the Arboretum is addressing that responsibility. We hope you enjoy reading about their efforts and learning about one of our great success stories—the return of red-headed woodpeckers!

— Karen Oberhauser, Arboretum director