Guy and Laura Waterman spent a lifetime reflecting and writing on the Northeast’s mountains. The Waterman fund seeks to further their legacy of stewardship through essays that celebrate and explore issues of wilderness, wildness, and humans through The Waterman Fund 2019 Essay Contest, an annual program.

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?

The Waterman Fund 2019 Essay Contest 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


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?


Waterman Fund Alpine Essay Contest (the “Contest”) is open to new and emerging writers who have not been published in a national magazine or written a book or self-published a book on the topic of their submission. These writers must be residents of the fifty(50) United States, the District of Columbia, or Canada. The Contest is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations and is void where prohibited by law. Waterman Fund board members are ineligible.


The Waterman Fund


The winning essay will be awarded $1,500. The runner-up essay will receive $500. Both will be published online and in Appalachia.


Essays will be accepted through February 2, 2020.


Official Rules of The Waterman Fund 2019 Essay Contest:

1.            Emerging Writers: For purposes of this contest, we consider an emerging writer a person of any age who has not previously published a book-length work of fiction or narrative nonfiction on topics of wilderness, wildness, or the ethics and ecology of environmental issues. While we applaud the commitment of more mature and seasoned writers on these important topics, the Waterman Fund essay contest seeks to offer emerging writers significant support through the prize money and publication. In this way, we feel we best steward new generations of voices for the wilderness and thus sustain the evolving spirit of wildness that is crucial to the mission of the Waterman Fund.

2.            Agreement to Official Rules: By participating in the Contest, contestant warrants that s/he fully and unconditionally agrees to and accepts these Official Rules and the decisions of the Waterman Fund, which are final and binding in all matters related to the Contest. Winning the prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.

3.            Timing: The Waterman Fund 2019 Essay Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. on February 2. Mail-in entries must be postmarked no later than February 2.

4.            Length: Essays should be between 2000 and 3000 words. While winning essays may eventually be edited for publication and become longer or shorter, please bear this word limit in mind in your original submission.

5.            Submission Format: For ease of sharing amongst our essay review panel, please submit your essay through email ( as a Word-compatible document. Please do not use page numbers, headers or footers in your document. PDFs are not acceptable. If you must submit a hard copy, please contact the essay coordinator directly for further instructions.

6.            Conditions and Limits:

•             No submissions will be acknowledged or returned. The Waterman Fund is not responsible for lost, late, incomplete, invalid, unintelligible, illegible, misdirected or postage-due requests, which are void.

•             Each contestant may enter one (1) Submission to the The Waterman Fund 2019 Essay Contest.

•             By entering, entrants represent and warrant that the entries they submit:

•             Are their own original creations

•             Do not infringe any other person’s or entity’s rights, including, without limitation, contractual rights, rights of publicity and privacy, trademark, copyright, and patent rights; and have not been previously published online or in print.

•             The subject of the essay should not present a conflict of interest: i.e., if writer works for a conservation organization, the subject of the essay should not represent what is a priority for the organization.

7.            Notifying the Contest Winner: The winner (s) will be notified by email, phone, or registered mail by July 15.

8.            Prize: $2000 will be split between the winning and runner up essays, or as the Waterman Fund sees fit. The winning essay will be printed in The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Appalachia Journal. The winner must agree for his/her essay to be edited by the editor of Appalachia.

•             In the unlikely event that no winning essay(s) are selected, the Waterman Fund will retain the prize monies and recognize essays and writers as is appropriate to the situation.

9.            General Conditions and Rights: The Waterman Fund reserves the right to cancel or modify the Contest if fraud, technical failure, or any other factor beyond the Waterman Fund’s reasonable control impairs the integrity of the Contest, as determined by the Waterman Fund in its sole discretion. In such event, the Waterman Fund reserves the right to award the prize at random from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment. In addition, submission of an entry in this contest constitutes entrants’ agreement to grant the Waterman Fund an irrevocable royalty-free worldwide license to reproduce and display the entry or any derivation thereof, credited with the entrant’s first and last name.

10.         Release: By entering the Contest, contestant agrees to release and hold harmless the Waterman Fund, and each of its representative officers and directors, (collectively the “Released Parties”) from and against any losses, damages, rights, claims or causes of action of any kind arising, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, out of participation in the Contest, as well as claims based on defamation and infringement of any other person’s or entity’s rights, including, without limitation, contractual rights, rights of publicity and privacy, trademark, copyright, and patent rights.

11.         Limitations of Liability: The Released Parties are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by contestants, printing errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Contest; (2) technical failures of any kind including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; (3) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the process or the Contest; (4) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the Contest or the processing of entries; (5) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from contestants’ participation in the Contest or receipt or use of any prize or while traveling to or from any prize-related activity; or (6) liability in connection with the Content. If for any reason a contestant’s entry is confirmed to have been erroneously deleted, lost, or otherwise destroyed or corrupted, contestant’s sole remedy is another entry in the Contest during the Contest Period.


Find out more information and enter the contest at the competition webpage. You can also see past winners here.