If you grew up in Wisconsin in the middle of the 20th century — or know your conservation history — you might recognize the moniker “Ranger Mac.” Wakelin McNeel was a professor of agriculture and a forestry extension agent at the UW as well as host of the WHA radio program Afield with Ranger Mac from 1933 to 1954. Part of the UW’s School of the Air, the nature show informed and engaged children and adults alike. Ranger Mac made plenty of in-person appearances, too, including field trips to his hometown, Wisconsin Dells. In 1941, he helped secure a 310-acre donation of land from the Upham family and established Upham Woods, an environmental education camp located in the Dells that’s still managed by the UW Division of Extension. McNeel is a three-time hall-of-famer because of his environmental efforts: he was inducted into the Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame in 1995, the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2002, and the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in 2006. In short, Ranger Mac was the forestry-focused forerunner to Mr. Rogers and a towering figure in Wisconsin’s conservation history.
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