For A Love Of The Land

Aldo Leopold said, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Leopold’s desire to ethically care for the land has inspired generations to practice conserving the land they manage.

Joe Hovel is one of those individuals. He is a woodland owner who ethically manages 3,300 acres of land in several Northwoods counties. In addition, he owns County Line Wood Products and serves as President and one of the founders of Partners in Forestry Landowners Cooperative. Hovel is a finalist for the 2023 Leopold Conservation Award.

The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes farmers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat in their care. Hovel is one of the four finalists.

Hovel has a land ethic that is made up of 4 components of land. Those components are economic, environmental, social, and intrinsic values. This land ethic was developed over the decades and inspired by a walk in the woods.

“Year ago, I would go in the woods and I would look for timber and something dawned on me…I could say I went looking for timber and I found much more,” Hovel said. “I found an active, living ecosystem and frankly it’s an ecosystem that enriches our lives and if we treat it properly and sustain it we certainly have the hope it will enrich future generations as well.”

Forest management isn’t easy as the challenges are many. “We’re seeing the loss of some timber species, species that are not able to regenerate,” Hovel shares. “We’re seeing way too many deer numbers in the northern forested regions, at least in a lot of areas, and that’s playing havoc on forest regeneration as well.”

Despite the challenges, Hovel continues ahead. “We must plug forward,” Hovel stated. “We must try to provide everything we can for the future.”