Aldo Leopold Writing Contest


For 6th – 12th grade students in New Mexico, the Aldo Leopold Writing Contest is an effective and inclusive way to engage the next generation of citizen leaders in an urgent conversation about how to address the changing realities brought about by climate disruption, biodiversity loss, growing freshwater demands, and other pressing global conservation issues. 

It is effective not only because of how many people it touches (the student participants, their peers, their teachers, their parents and grandparents, and their larger communities), but also because it gives voice to the writers with the most moral authority to discuss these issues: the generation most vulnerable to the suffering that will be caused by inaction. 

It is inclusive because the essays are judged anonymously based on the character of the content, without regard for the writer’s race, national origin, religion, or any other factor.  The Aldo Leopold Writing Contest is an organic--because based on merit--way to diversify an essential conversation for all of society.


Thank you to our partners


2018 Aldo Leopold Writing Contest Award Winners

(click the link above to read essays from past recipients)

Click "Listen Here" to listen to Akshay Warrier, a 2018 Leopold Writing Contest winner talking about his experiences (forward to 8:20)


2017 Aldo Leopold Writing Contest Award Winners

(click the link above to read essays from past recipients)



Aldo Leopold is most widely known as the author of A Sand County Almanac. Published in 1949, the book is a classic in Western literature. Leopold believed our idea of “community” should be enlarged to include non-human elements such as soils, waters, plants, animals, “or collectively: the land.” Leopold believed our economic wellbeing could not be separated from the wellbeing of our environment. His land ethic asserts: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Tell the story of a local land ethic leader.

Your story should reflect an understanding of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, but does not have to be limited by it. Leopold understood there is not just one land ethic: “I have purposely presented the land ethic as a product of evolution because nothing so important as an ethic is ever written... It evolves in the minds of a thinking community.” You may interpret “local” to mean your own immediate neighborhood or the entire southwest region of the United States. We encourage you to read “The Land Ethic” and other essays by Aldo Leopold as part of your preparation. These can be found in A Sand County Almanac, available at local libraries, bookstores, and on the internet.


All students enrolled in grades 6-12 in public, private and home schools in the state of New Mexico. Students must submit original work and have a sponsoring teacher sign the contest entry form. One entry per person.


  • Grades 6-7: no longer than 300 words $500 First Place

  • Grades 8-9: no longer than 400 words $500 First Place

  • Grades 10-12: no longer than 500 words $500 First Place

  • Bonus Prize: $250 in books for the school of the overall best entry


  • After essays are judged teachers of winning students and the students themselves will be notified.

  • Awards will be presented in the spring of 2019