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.


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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.”

Write your own water ethic that describes or captures how you think people should relate to water resources on our planet.

Aldo Leopold’s land ethic developed from his years of reflection about both his personal relationship to the natural environment as well as society’s interactions with nature. Here in the arid Southwest, water plays a vital role in both ecosystems and economies. People use water as a resource for consumption, growing food, raising livestock, industry, and recreation. Yet, healthy ecosystems also depend on clean, flowing rivers, replenishment of groundwater, thriving lakes and ponds, and healthy oceans


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: 300-500 word essay — $200 First Place

  • Grades 8-9: 400-600 word essay — $300 First Place

  • Grades 10-12: 500-800 word essay — $800 First Place Scholarship

  • Grades 6-12: Honorable Mention prizes may be awarded


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

  • Awards will be presented in the spring of 2019


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)