National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Biographical Vignettes
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A. Starker Leopold

                                          by Mary Meagher

A. Starker Leopold

A. Starker Leopold began his long advisory association with the National Park Service in 1962 with his appointment to the Special Advisory Board on Wildlife Management by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. His involvement with the national parks terminated only with his death on August 23, 1983.

Starker was the oldest son of Aldo and Estella Bergere Leopold. His brothers and sisters — Luna, Carl, Estella, and Nina — all made their own professional and personal contributions to the environment and to conservation. Starker wrote more than 100 scientific papers and five books, with a sixth book in progress at the time of his death. He received many honors for his professional contributions and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1970. But he is probably best known for the Leopold Report, written by himself as chairman, together with his colleagues, on several advisory committees to the secretary of the interior. The first of these reports, Wildlife Problems in National Parks (1963), proved to be a landmark for the National Park Service. The public controversy over the shooting reduction of elk in Yellowstone generated the appointment of this first advisory committee. Typically, Starker did not confine his charge to the narrow topic of the elk reductions. He and his fellow committee members broadened their scope to address the broader topic and the more fundamental issue of the goals and mandates of national parks in managing wildlife as distinguished from other land and wildlife management agencies.

The phrase "vignettes of primitive America" is often quoted from the 19B3 Leopold Report. Leopold once laughed that had he known how institutionalized this phrase would become, and to some extent, the entire report, he would have chosen his words more carefully. He was too fine an ecologist to have meant a scene currently fixed in time, exactly, and yet his words did reflect the then state of knowledge regarding wildlife, management of ecosystems, and the role of human presence.

Starker's formal role as an advisor continued as he chaired a 1969 meeting of the Natural Sciences Advisory Committee to discuss differences regarding grizzly bear management at Yellowstone. He later served on the Advisory Board on National Parks (1977-1978).

His informal role was less known but equally valued. Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Nathaniel P. Reed convened annual fall gatherings in Yellowstone to fish. Catch-and-release was the usual sport, but Starker would often bring fresh fish to precede the huckleberry pie at dinner. There, the biology conversations continued among those with national park interests who had come for dinner.

Starker's influence was often subtle and yet vast. His voice is missed.

From National Park Service: The First 75 Years


Last Modified: March 27 2017 02:00:00 pm EDT

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