Nina Leopold Bradley (1917 – May 25, 2011)

Nina Leopold Bradley, “the vision and force” behind Aldo Leopold Center, dies at 93.  Nina Leopold Bradley continued the legacy of her famous father—renowned environmentalist Aldo Leopold—but in every sense of the word made it her own.  A lifelong naturalist and researcher, she returned in 1976 to the family land where Leopold recorded his observations of nature in the 1930s and 1940s, published as the seminal “A Sand County Almanac” after his death in 1948.  Bradley continued those observations, finding clear evidence of how plants and animals were responding to climate changes since her father walked the same land.  Her work was published in 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences, “in one of the first published studies that species were responding differently to climate change,” said Buddy Huffaker, executive director of the Aldo Leopold Foundation.  “She definitely made her own mark,” he said.  “She committed her life to conservation.”  Bradley died of natural causes Wednesday at her home on the Aldo Leopold Reserve near Baraboo in Sauk County.

Bradley was the third of five children born to Aldo and Estella Leopold, all of whom went on to careers in environmental work and earth sciences.  With her siblings, Bradley was instrumental in the creation of the foundation and later its Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, located on the family land where Leopold worked to restore an abandoned farm to its natural state.  It was where they long spent weekends and summers.  The family’s ever-so-humble home still stands there—a rehabbed structure known as The Shack—and the only chicken coop listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

As a young woman, she earned a degree in geography from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and married biologist William Elder.  His work took him to exotic places, including Hawaii and Botswana.  The marriage ended in divorce.  In 1971, she married geologist Charles Bradley, a childhood friend, in a ceremony at The Shack.  They later used pine trees planted in her childhood to build their retirement home—and for other special projects including the Schlitz Audubon Center in Bayside.  Her husband also became her partner in observing and recording what was happening on the Leopold land, and in training graduate students.

Other survivors include daughter Nina Loeffel; stepchildren Dorothy Bradley and Charles Bradley Jr.; sister Estella Leopold; grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Her brothers, Starker, Luna and Carl, died earlier.  Bradley’s ashes were be scattered on the land she loved, just as the family did with those of her late husband. by Amy Rabideau Silvers of the Journal Sentinel