“By making Florissant a national monument in 1969, the United States guaranteed protection to an important natural place, a quiet place where we can think about our earthly roots. Looking up, we can watch the kestrels dive like blue angels in search of grasshoppers, while we stand in the graveyard of a great fallen community — the Florissant ecosystem of the Eocene. Here, with the wonder of a child, we can take the mental journey back through the geologic ages.” – Estella Leopold
In the summer of 1969, one of the world’s premier fossil beds nearly became an A-frame housing subdivision. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument was saved by a grassroots group of scientists, conservationists, and local ranchers, along with a precedent-setting legal team. As Estella Leopold, one of the founding members of the Defenders of Florissant, once commented, “How can a group of citizens take on the real estate establishment? Well…it’s love and science and good lawyers.”
This Saturday, the Rocky Mountain Land Series (in partnership with the Aldo Leopold Foundation) is honored to welcome Estella Leopold, co-author of Saved in Time: The Fight to Establish Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado — a first hand account of a classic environmental battle that has many lessons for today.
For details on Estella Leopold’s Land Series program, please click here!
Estella Leopold’s co-author, Herbert W. Meyer, also wrote the classic work, The Fossils of Florissant — the subject of a truly memorable Land Series program in 2003.
“If one of the pleasures in visiting Florissant is seeing the landscapes and imagining what they were like in outline 34 million years ago, what makes the experience so vivid is the incredible preservation of the fossil-bearing rocks themselves. It is a far different experience than looking at a set of hand-sized fossils on display in a glass cabinet.” — Estella Leopold
Forty years later, some of the early Defenders of Florissant return to what is now Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument — without an A-frame in sight:
Estella Leopold, Tom Lamm, former Governor Dick Lamm, Attorney Victor Yannacone, Jr., and Superintendent Keith Payne celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
The fight to save Florissant is one of Colorado’s greatest stories of conservation, grassroots activism, and devotion to the land. A land ethic that runs deep in the Leopold family, from Estella’s early days at her family’s Sand County shack:
At the Sand County shack, 1939: rear: Aldo & Estella Leopold, Luna, Starker(kneeling); front: Nina, young Estella, and Gus, a treasured dog that has everyone’s attention.