Aldo Leopold Writing Programs spotlight the environment

Students in grades 6 through 12 can enter the Aldo Leopold Writing Contest, while college students, graduate students, post-graduate students, and other early to mid-career professional writers can apply for the Aldo & Estella Leopold Residency at “Mi Casita,” their first house in the remote village of Tres Piedras.

The purpose of the Leopold Writing Program is to build on Aldo Leopold’s legacy as a writer by inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders to participate in the evolution of land ethics through the written word. 

Aldo Leopold is best known for writing A Sand County Almanac (1949) in which he articulates his lifelong philosophical search for how humans could “live on the land without spoiling it.”  This search culminated in his formulation of “The Land Ethic”:

“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.”

This year, the Aldo Leopold Writing Contest is partnering with Golden Apple Foundation of New Mexico to provide award-winning teachers to help judge the essays. Essays vary in length according to grade category. Students in grades 6-7 write essays no longer than 300 words; grades 8-9 (400 words); grades 10-12 (500 words). Each grade category will be judged separately. A $500 cash prize will be awarded in each age category with an additional $250 worth of books awarded to the school of the overall best essayist.

First place essays will be read at the Awards Ceremony to be held at 2 p.m April 23 at the First Annual Leopold Lecture at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. To complete the intergenerational nature of the Leopold Writing Program, Barry Lopez, the distinguished writer that gives the Leopold Lecture, will also present the awards. According to Wikipedia, Lopez is an American author, essayist, and fiction writer whose work is known for its humanitarian and environmental concerns. He is a National Book Award winner ad is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as numerous other awards.

Writing contest entries must be emailed to by February 7, 2017.  Go to for contest and entry information.  

Aldo & Estella Leopold Residency

College students, graduate students, post-graduate students, and other early to mid-career professional writers from around the country and abroad may apply for up to a one-month stay at Mi Casita during the months of May to October. Each year the residency’s steering committees invites two writers (selected from a pool of applicants) to become residents. Each resident receives a stipend of $500 to help defray travel and living expenses. In exchange, and in addition to whatever other projects the resident pursues, each resident commits to offering a public presentation of their work in nearby Taos sometime during or immediately after their Mi Casita stay.

Interested applicants may submit a maximum two-page resume along with a maximum 500-word statement of interest describing how their work at Mi Casita will extend the legacy of Aldo and Estella Leopold and the land ethic. The deadline for the May to October 2017 season is Feb. 28 with decisions made by March 31.

To apply for the 2017 program, please contact Chris Furr of the USDA Forest Service at Visit for more information.