Natural Environment Essay Contest

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Following a competitive essay contest, the Otsego County Conservation Association has awarded nine Otsego County middle-school students with a week-long stay at a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Summer Camp.

Otsego County students ages 11-14 were invited to compete for DEC camperships via the essay contest. In 750 words or less, they were asked to consider the question, “Imagine yourself in 50 years: What would you say to your younger self about the value of Otsego County’s beautiful land, lakes and streams?” OCCA received essays from Kathy Hardison’s Oneonta Middle School students and Amy Parr’s Cooperstown Middle School  science class as well as independent submissions.

Earning a trip to DEC camp as a result of their efforts are: Eva Barberio, Danielle Basdekis, Michael Crippen, Brandon Gardner, Majesti Hamilton, Ray Hovis, Phoebe Jones, Reilly Mooney and Aaliyah Saunders. Alternates are Ian Quinn, Henry Wager and Mikayla Web. The authors of the winning essays will enjoy a week at NYSDEC camp this summer, where they will spend their time immersed in the natural environment and will enjoy a balance of environmental education, sportsman education, and outdoor fun.

OCCA will sponsor the campers at $350 per student, thanks to funds provided by private donors. Alternates will be rewarded for their hard work as well with a small cash prize and the opportunity to attend camp if a spot should open up.

OCCA also recognized essayists who did not apply to attend camp. Brayden White took top honors, followed by F. Tulip Bailey and Jacob Rei.

Now in its fifth year, OCCA’s Campership Sponsor Program is intended to help connect middle schoolers with nature through their writing skills, knowledge of science, introspection and real-life experiences.

“Since 1947, kids have been making friends and memories at DEC environmental education camp,” said OCCA Executive Director Darla M. Youngs.

“Today’s children are spending too much time inside. Our program is possible thanks in large part to donors who attended these camps. They, like us, want to spark the interest of our young people in nature and, ultimately, get kids outside more,” Youngs said.

Founded in 1968, OCCA is a 501(c)3 membership group dedicated to promoting the appreciation and sustainable use of Otsego County’s natural resources through education, advocacy, resource management, research, and planning. For the last 48 years, OCCA has played a key role in initiating and carrying out programs designed to improve and/or protect Otsego County’s water, land, and air, representing more than 800+ members and volunteers. Visit or call (607) 547-4488 for more information.

Cooperstown Central School: F. Tulip Bailey, Michael Crippen, Ray Hovis, Phoebe Jones, Reilly Mooney, Ian Quinn, Henry Wager, Brayden White.

Oneonta Middle School: Eva Barberio, Danielle Basdekis, Majesti Hamilton, Jacob Rei, Aaliyah Saunders, Mikayla Web.

Valleyview Elementary School: Brandon Gardner

TAKE THE PLEDGE TO CLEAN, DRAIN AND DRY, AT Signatures equal leverage for grants, funding support and legislation!

Darla M. Youngs, Executive Director
Otsego County Conservation Association, Inc.
Secretary, Otsego County Water Quality Coordinating Committee
7207 State Highway 80, PO Box 931
Cooperstown, NY 13326
(607) 547-4488; (607) 282-4087
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Sage celebrates the voices of emerging writers with our fourth annual contest. We invite writers to submit nonfiction prose that enhances our understanding of the world, each other, and ourselves.

David Haskell
Sy Montgomery
Terry Tempest Williams

Publication & Cash Award

February 1, 2015


  • Contest entries and the required submission form must be received between January 1, 2015 and noon Eastern Standard Time on February 1, 2015. Please email entries to
  • Entries must be original, unpublished, and unaccepted by any other publisher at the time of submission. This applies to self-published pieces and blogs.
  • Entries must be between 2000 and 5000 words. Please indicate total word count at the top of the first page.
  • Entries must be submitted as a double-spaced Word document in Times New Roman, 12-point font with one-inch margins. Please paginate in the top right corner.
  • Entries must include a title
  • One entry per author.
  • Sage Magazine’s staff, editors, and affiliates are ineligible for the contest.
  • Sage will announce the winners of this year’s contest on March 15, 2015.


David Haskell is Professor of Biology at Sewanee: The University of the South and the author of the highly-acclaimed The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature. Set in the midst of an old-growth forest in the Cumberland Gap, the book integrates scientific observation and contemplation of the natural world. It won the 2013 Best Book Award from the National Academies, was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction, and was runner-up for the 2013 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. Professor Haskell was named the 2009 Carnegie-CASE Professor of the Year in Tennessee, and a recipient of a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship. He is also a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and member of the American Ornithologists’ Union. He and his wife raise dairy goats and sell goat milk soaps at their farm in Tennessee.

Sy Montgomery is a naturalist, documentary screenwriter, and the author of nearly twenty nonfiction books for adults and children, including The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood, The Soul of an Octopus, and Birdology. The Boston Globe describes Ms. Montgomery as “part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson.” To research her stories, Ms. Mongomery has been chased by a silverback gorilla in Zaire, climbed Mongolia’s Altai Mountains in search of snow leopards, and SCUBA dived with octopuses. She is a frequent guest on NPR’s Living on Earth, and has written television documentaries for National Geographic. In addition, many of her children’s books have been adapted for use in the classroom. Ms. Montgomery is the recipient of numerous awards including lifetime achievement awards from the Humane Society and the New England Booksellers Association, the 2010 Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award, the 2007 Orbus Pictus Award, and the Henry Bergh Award for Nonfiction. She lives with her husband, border collie, and a flock of chickens in New Hampshire.

Terry Tempest Williams is a naturalist, activist, and the author of more than a dozen works of nonfiction, poetry, and essays, including Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, and When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice. Her work often explores the interrelated themes of social and environmental justice through stories about community and place. Ms. Williams’s writing has appeared in the New Yorker and the New York Times, in addition to numerous anthologies. She is also a regular contributor to the Progressive and Orion Magazine. She is a recipient of numerous honors, including the 2006 Robert Marshall Award from The Wilderness Society, the 2010 David R. Brower Award, the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western American Literature Association, the Wallace Stegner Award from The Center of the American West, a Lannan Literary Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Ms. Williams is currently the Annie Clark Tanner Scholar in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. She lives with her husband in Castle Valley, Utah and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Previous Winners

2013: Second Annual Writers Contest

1st Place: Sarah Maslin, “A Tale of Two Trails”
2nd Place:
David Johnson, “Return to the Mountain”
3rd Place:
Nigel Pitman, “The Pit in the Woods”
Honorable Mention: Alycia Parnell, Ari Phillips


2012: First Annual Writers Contest

1st Place: Megan Kimble, “Wager for Rain”
2nd Place: Mira Manickam, “Just Enough: Fishing for Happiness in Southern Thailand”
3rd Place:  A. Kathleen Higgins, “An Ice Rink at 16,000 Feet”


Other Submissions

Are you interested in submitting an article, but don’t want to enter the contest?  Or do you have an idea for a photo essay, infographic, short documentary, or podcast?  We accept submissions from journalists and visual artists from all over the world.  Read our How to Contribute Guide or contact us at


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