Enter Essay Contest

20th Anniversary

2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the Waterman Fund. To celebrate this milestone, the Fund has created a reflective essay prompt focused on changes in the wild.

We’d like to think that wilderness and wildness can withstand the test of time, the change of political regimes, the evolution of technologies, the ebb and flow of social organization, and the cultural zeitgeist. But can it? How has the spirit of wildness and wilderness itself endured over the last twenty years? In this short time, we saw over 548 million acres protected across the nation under former President Obama—the most habitat protected by any president in American history; and we’ve also experienced rollbacks to National Monuments and the preference for corporate interests over conservation under President Trump. At the turn of the century, we were lamenting the shrill tones of cell phones in the mountains and a decade later lamenting the chasm that the digital, virtual age has created between the younger generation and the wild. And now, we see a resurgence of interest in and passion for the wild. Across the country, the number of hikers has increased dramatically—45 million people went hiking in 2017, up from 30 million in 2006. Ironically, social media—one of the virtual realities we hypothesized would distance Millenials and Gen Z from the wild—has helped connect people to the wild. How have cultural shifts impacted the wild in the last two decades? What have they been?

Similarly, we are interested in your personal experience with changes to the wild and changes in perceptions of the wild in the last twenty years. What aspects of the wild endure the tests of time?

Essays will be accepted through March 2, 2020. The winning essay will be awarded $1,500. The runner-up essay will receive $500. Both will be published in online and in Appalachia. Essay winners will be selected and announced by mid-summer 2019. For the purposes of this contest, an emerging writer is considered someone who has a solid writing background or interest, but has not yet published a major work of prose on this topic or been featured in national publications. We welcome all inquiries at essays@watermanfund.org.