The 2016 Bell Prize

The Bell Prize for young essayists

Honoring the spirit of our founder, Tom Bell, we want to hear from aspiring writers and essayists, ages 18 to 25, on conservation topics frequently covered by High Country News.

At a time when there was little coverage of environmental issues in the American West, Bell founded HCN in 1970, and was a strong voice for conservation. He wrote about many topics, and these remain his legacy: he demanded better management of public lands, helped persuade the Wyoming Legislature to pass laws for conservation goals, including strip-mine reclamation, and pressured Game and Fish to be more scientific. We’re looking for writers who will continue that legacy well into the future.

Essays should be no longer than 800 words. Consider the conservation topics you're familiar with and why they're important to you: water, energy & industry, wildlife, public lands, climate, communities, sustainability, justice, politics -- you decide.

The winning essayist will:

  • be awarded the Bell Prize
  • receive $1,000 in cash
  • be published in the Nov. 14, 2016 Books and Authors issue and online.

Runner-up will receive $400 in outdoor gear from Mountainsmith (specifics below) and will also be featured online.

Please send one submission, and one only, to , by Oct. 14, 2016.

Think hard, write well and good luck.


  1. Essayists must be between the ages of 18 and 25 (as of Jan. 1, 2017).
  2. Authors must submit an unpublished, unedited essay written solely by the candidate in English.
  3. Essays must be on a topic within High Country News' coverage: See above for more details.
  4. Essays must not exceed 800 words.
  5. Authors must submit their essays via email to .
  6. Only one submission will be accepted per author. If the editors receive more than one submission from an author, none of the author's submissions will be considered. 


  • Submissions must be sent by midnight, Oct. 14, 2016. Essays should be emailed to .
  • Students will not receive a confirmation, and essay materials will not be returned. 


The editors will choose a first-place winner and a runner-up and will notify the winners by Nov. 7, 2016.


  • Submissions plagiarized in whole or in part shall automatically be disqualified. Plagiarism is defined as “the act or an instance of copying or stealing another’s words or ideas and attributing them as one’s own.” Examples of plagiarism include, but are not limited to: 1) verbatim copying of another’s written or spoken work, in whole or in part, without the use of quotation marks and attribution and 2) failure to cite the paraphrasing of another’s thoughts or ideas so as to pass them off as one’s own.
  • When you submit your essay to High Country News, you transfer and assign to High Country News the exclusive first North American serial rights, plus the exclusive right to republish and distribute, and allow third parties to republish and distribute the work, for 180 days after publication. High Country News retains the right to distribute your work digitally (in formats including but not limited to our website, e-newsletter, and mobile device applications). High Country News also retains the non-exclusive right to give reprint permission, and to syndicate your essay to any and all media. All subsequent printings must mention that the article first appeared in High Country News. High Country News may use your name and likeness in publishing, promoting, advertising and publicizing its publication and information products and services. Exclusion of this clause may be permitted with the consent of the editor.
  • In the event a situation arises that is not included herein, the organizers will resolve it at their own discretion and will inform the participants thereof. All decisions of the organizers are final.
  • Submitting to the Bell Prize competition presupposes acceptance of the terms described herein. 


The winning essay will be printed in the upcoming HCN special Books and Authors issue scheduled for publication on Nov. 14, 2016, the Bell Prize and a $1,000 award. The runner-up will receive $400 worth of outdoor gear from Mountainsmith: a Spectrum backpack, an Apex 60 backpack and Pyrite trekking poles. Both essays will appear on the High Country News website at

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