Isabella Clark (2017)

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Isabella Clark

Mandela Independent Magnet School (Santa Fe)

2017 Aldo Leopold Writing Contest Award Winner

Grades 8-9 Division Best Overall Essay, All Divisions


Private Profit vs. Public Interest

Beginning in 2010, and once again this year, Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah introduced a bill to sell off public lands. This bill would privatize lands that have been public for decades, giving the owners free rein to do whatever they wanted, including deforestation and mining activities that pollute rivers. If this bill had passed, people would not be able to hike, bike, or do anything else, because someone or some corporation would own that land; fortunately, it never received a hearing. “These places belong to all Americans and deserve a force of public servants to help monitor and protect them for future generations,” said Matt Keller, senior director of conservation with The Wilderness Society. The relationship between people and the land has oftentimes been one of destruction; clear cutting forests, the destruction of wildlife habitat, and mining and other private interests. This is not showing respect for our planet, and certainly not giving it the care it needs. The ways we treat each other could connect to how we treat the land. If we would all respect each other, it might result in our respecting the land. Aldo Leopold, a great American ecologist, believed that “the human relationship to the land must rest, not on mere economic expediency, but on ethics, aesthetics, and a mutually beneficial state of ecological resilience and integrity,” (Qi). Had Leopold and Chaffetz met, there is no doubt that they would have had a strong disagreement. In trying to pass a bill to sell public and protected lands, Chaffetz showed that he has no understanding or sympathy for the ideals that Leopold held dear. Chaffetz’s behavior is certainly based on “economic expediency”, economic advantage, because selling these lands would mean land use only for profit. On February 1, Chaffetz withdrew the bill because of protests and general opposition. These protests were held in many states including New Mexico. I doubt that many of these protesters know who Aldo Leopold was, but they are certainly following his ideas. “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect” (The Aldo Leopold Foundation).

Works Cited

Qi, Feng Lin. "ALDO LEOPOLD: RECONCILING ECOLOGY AND ECONOMICS." Center for Humans and Nature, Jan. 2013,

The Aldo Leopold Foundation. "The Land Ethic." The Aldo Leopold Foundation, Accessed 6 Feb. 2017. The Wilderness Society. "Rep. Chaffetz Continues Push to Dismantle America's Public Lands."

The Wilderness Society, 3 Feb. 2017,

Abygail MacCurdy (2017)

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Abygail MacCurdy

Albuquerque High School

2017 Aldo Leopold Writing Contest Award Winner

Grades 10-12 Division


All the worlds inhumanities cannot be solved by looking at a picturesque landscape of what nature has to offer. Aldo Leopold may have believed so, and for a time, I would have agreed full-heartedly with him. Leopold idealized that the way people treated each other directly related to how people treated the land. I believe it is an overall lack of respect between those who can afford it, and those who can’t. The indigenous tribes across the southwest believed that they should conserve the land in such a way that enabled seven generations to enjoy it as they did. However, land owners believe that if they develop that land into neighborhoods and malls they may be able to make a profit. Like Aldo Leopold, indigenous tribes respected the land because they knew they were a part of it, so they treated each patch of dirt with the upmost respect. Land owners can afford to abuse it because they are able to buy more, therefore they discount those who question its health. This is because the land is thought to be a birthright to us, handed down to us from the generations before us. If mutual respect for living things was the societal norm I believe everyone would treat each other better. As an avid outdoorswoman, I watch year after year as our global climate gradually increases in temperature. Deniers of Global Climate Change (GCC) have many opinions on this topic, mostly regarding how GCC is a myth, because politicians care more about their next paycheck as opposed to the health of the planet they will take their first and last breath on. They disregard the rights of civilians who work for them just as much as they neglect the unity of the land. Instead of seeking a healthy balance between production and conservation, deniers of GCC seek a higher standard of living regardless of what is harmed in the process. It is then when one has to wonder if Leopold’s ideology rings true. If these people had more influence from their natural world, would they then not achieve, but strive for that harmony? As I stated previously, there are atrocious things in this world that cannot be solved simply by reconnecting with nature. The constantly growing population is, for the first time, able to directly contact each other from every corner of the globe due to the growth of social media. The advantages of this are endless, people can share ideas and solutions to problems previously deemed unsolvable. Leopold believed that nature is the one true way to connect with each other, but we are connected in some sense right now. All we have to do is learn to be productive with our connections. Whether it be educating each other on why conservation is so vital or spreading love with hashtags until those who oppress us cannot be heard. Aldo Leopold remains one of the world’s most iconic conservationists and his influence will continue to inspire future generations to come.

Tigerlilly Warner (2017)

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Tigerlilly Warner

Aldo Leopold Charter School (Silver City)

2017 Aldo Leopold Writing Contest Award Winner

Grades 6-7 Division


In Aldo Leopold’s book A Sand County Almanac he states, “We can only be ethical in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, and otherwise have faith in.” That means that without spending a substantial amount of quality time in nature we begin to believe that land is simply dirt, the well-being of which is unnecessary for human survival. The land has always provided for us, offering the resources necessary for survival. At some point in our evolution, humanity realized that we could take advantage of this relationship. We could manipulate the land for human profit. The proposed Gila River Diversion is an example of this. The Gila is the last free flowing river in New Mexico yet there is a plan to divert it, potentially harming the delicate ecosystem for which the Gila is the heart. Those who have grown up going to the river, and those who have learned to love and have faith in it are fighting the diversion. It’s hard to imagine that those who welcome the dam have ever had that relationship with the Gila, because when we truly connect with something, we are no longer apart from it. Humans traditionally think of animals, soil, and plants as something separate from themselves, detaching from these elements. Maybe that is one reason why we stand by as we destroy the environment, because we think of it as something disconnected and apart from us. If humans regularly spend time in nature, we may be able to understand how important it is to human survival. By trusting in nature it is more likely that we will gain faith in each other. With this faith we might be able to change our perspective towards nature and be able to “be ethical in relation” to it.