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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(2017-2018 entry form will be posted here in June)

Aldo Leopold is most widely known as the author of A Sand County Almanac. Published in 1949, the book is a classic of Western environmental literature. Leopold believed our idea of “community” should be expanded to also include elements of the natural world around us: “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.”

How is the way people treat each other related to the way people treat the land?

Your answer should reflect an understanding of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic. We encourage you to read “The Land Ethic” or other essays by Aldo Leopold as part of your preparation. These can be found in A Sand County Almanac, available at local libraries and bookstores, as well as 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

A total of $1750 in cash and books will be awarded. The Awards Ceremony will be part of the First Annual Leopold Lecture on Sunday 23 April 2017 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque featuring nationally distinguished writer Barry Lopez. All winners, their families, and their teachers will receive a complimentary invitation to the event. Click here for more information.


  • Download the teacher toolkit [Coming Soon]

  • Have students submit essays electronically here.

  • In the event essays cannot be submitted electronically, contact us for submission instructions.


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

  • Winning students attend the Annual Leopold Lecture.

  • Teachers with the most submissions will also be honored at the Annual Leopold Lecture.


note: please check back in june to download the 2017-2018 entry form.