William J P Aberg

1889-1968
Inducted 2000

“Individuals may come and go, but the conservation program, which some deviation of time, experience and learning may necessitate, must go on without interruption. Conservation cannot afford to enter the political arena as a candidate or partisan.” – Aberg

William J. P. Aberg, a native of Sweden and a longtime Madison, WI., resident, is credited with helping to shape two major pieces of legislation affecting Wisconsin’s early conservation efforts. Aberg joined with a group of pioneer conservationists, including Aldo Leopold, to forge the Conservation Act of 1927, which created the Conservation Commission form of resource management.

Aberg also aided in the construction of the state’s forest crop law, which provided an incentive to growers for the perpetual continuation of timber growth and harvesting. Aberg was active in Republican politics, but he remained steadfast in his conviction that politics and conservation didn’t mix.

FACTS

A front page story in the Wisconsin State Journal of Tuesday, March 19, 1968, announced “Aberg, Conservation Pioneer, Dies.” It credited the native of Sweden with participating in the formulation of two major pieces of legislation affecting Wisconsin’s early conservation efforts.

“Mr. Aberg joined with a group of pioneer conservationists, including the late Aldo Leopold, University of Wisconsin conservation leader, to forge the Conservation Act of 1927, which created the Conservation Commission form of resource management,” the newspaper said. Aberg also aided in the construction of the state’s forest crop law, which provided an incentive to growers for the perpetual continuation of timber growth and harvesting, the newspaper said.

Like several other early conservationists in Wisconsin, Aberg must have performed his conservation duties out of love. He was a successful Madison attorney and active in civic circles, although he was described as a private man. Conservation, though, received a great deal of his attention.
Aberg came to the Shell Lake area with his family when he was a child. His origins in Sweden and northern Wisconsin provided the backdrop to a life dominated by love of nature. That would steer him to early involvement with the Izaak Walton League both at the district, state and national level. He was also a founder and member of the National Wildlife Federation.

He worked with Aldo Leopold to refashion the framework of Wisconsin’s conservation system, bringing about major reform that created the citizens’ Wisconsin Conservation Commission. Aberg was a chief architect of the new law, enacted in 1927. Aberg was active in Republican politics, but he remained steadfast in his conviction that politics and conservation didn’t mix. He is also credited with being among a group that fought for restoration of the Horicon Marsh as a wildlife area and the establishment of several national forest areas in the state. Horicon Marsh purchases were accomplished after he became a member of the Conservation Commission.

BIOGRAPHICAL HISTORY

  • Born January 31, 1889, in province of Smaland, Sweden, to John and Johanna Aberg
  • Died March 18, 1968, in Madison, Wisconsin
  • Educated in grammar and high school in Shell Lake, Wisconsin; Bachelor’s degree, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1912; Law degree, UW-Madison, 1914
    Practiced law throughout his life in Madison area. Began his practice on June 13, 1913, was partner in Sanborn, Blake & Aberg firm.
  • A native of Sweden, he was selected a representative to Sweden of the War Trade Board, serving in 1918-19 by appointment of Secretary of State Lansing. He was designated a special assistant to the department of state, headquartered at Stockholm. Duties were in the administration of trade treaty between Sweden and allied powers. Sweden had declared its neutrality in 1914.
  • Led drive in 1940 to raise $6,000 for Finnish War relief.
  • Among a group of conservationists who pushed for establishment of Wisconsin Conservation Commission.
  • Served on Conservation Commission from 1939-51. Elected chairman in 1943, served until 1946.
  • Instrumental in restoration of Horicon Marsh.
  • Instrumental in establishment of several national forest areas in Wisconsin.
  • Member of Izaak Walton League. State Division President 1927-29 (two-year term). Served as chairman of national executive board of the League. Was active in Izaak Walton League throughout his life. Served as a Chapter Director in 1948.
  • Founder (1936) and Director of National Wildlife Federation.
  • Honored July 5, 1951, by Wisconsin Conservation Commission and Conservation Department members at testimonial dinner.
  • Honored by Wisconsin Conservation Congress in 1951.
  • Conservation Department Area Headquarters in Spooner dedicated in his honor in 1964, plaque presented “in recognition of unselfish service to conservation in Wisconsin.”
  • Lifelong friend, colleague and fishing and hunting partner of Aldo Leopold.
  • Pushed for establishing Wisconsin Conservation Commission
  • Served on Conservation Commission from 1939-51, chair from 1943-46
  • Instrumental in restoration of Horicon Marsh
  • Instrumental in establishing national forest areas in Wisconsin
  • Active in state and national Izaak Walton League

(Publication of this fact sheet made possible with assistance from Krause Publications, Iola, Wisconsin.)

For more information read his Hall of Fame monograph.