Wisconsin Aldo Leopold Writing Contest

Aldo Leopold is best known for writing A Sand County Almanac (1949), in which he articulates his vision of a “land ethic” – that people come to “see land as a community to which we belong” and learn to “live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”

A Sand County Almanac book coverAs a work of great literature, A Sand County Almanac powerfully reshapes our understanding of the relationship between people and land. The Wisconsin Aldo Leopold Writing Contest uses Leopold’s ideas to inspire students to participate in the evolution of the land ethic through the written word.

Participants are also encouraged to become involved with a local Leopold Weekend celebration, happening throughout Wisconsin from March 3 to 5, 2017.

2017 Writing Contest Topic

The topic for the 2017 Wisconsin Aldo Leopold Writing Contest is based upon Aldo Leopold’s “Land Ethic” essay from A Sand County Almanac:

Tell us the story of a local leader who exemplifies Leopold’s land ethic

You may interpret “local” as someone who lives as nearby as your own neighborhood, or who resides and works elsewhere in Midwest region of the United States.

To be successful, you will need to read and understand the “The Land Ethic” essay in A Sand County Almanac and convey that understanding in your writing. Participants are also encouraged to explore other writings by Aldo Leopold as part of your preparation.


All students enrolled in grades 9 to 12 in public, private, and home schools in the state of Wisconsin are eligible. Students must submit original work. One entry per person.


Aldo Leopold Archive Image 0534

Aldo Leopold writing at the Shack.

The essay should be 500 words or less in length.

All essays must be typed in 12 pt font, double spaced, and submitted electronically. If you run into trouble submitting your essay online, please contact .gro.1490877541dlopo1490877541elodl1490877541a@tse1490877541tnocg1490877541nitir1490877541w1490877541

The writer’s name may not appear anywhere on the manuscript to allow for blind judging.


Submissions must be sent by 11:59 pm on March 17, 2017. Entries submitted after the deadline will not be considered.


Contest winners will be notified in May 2017, and will receive the following:

  • Three winners from 9th-10th grade: $300 each
  • Three winners from 11th-12th grade: $500 each

Writing contest winners will also receive copies of A Sand County Almanac, and memberships to the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, International Crane Foundation, and the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

An awards ceremony will take place at the Leopold Center in Baraboo, WI, on Saturday, May 20, 2017.

Winning essays will be featured on the Leopold Foundation website and may also be printed in The Leopold Outlook, the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s member magazine.

Student and Teacher Resources

Would you like to explore this year’s essay topic in depth with your students? We’ve compiled these resources and lessons for teachers as a guide.

Readings and lessons on the land ethic:

View the winning essays from the 2016 writing contest:

Download a flyer to print and share!

Contest Sponsors

The 2017 Wisconsin Aldo Leopold Writing Contest is presented by:

Enter the contest