Gallatin Writers, in cooperation with Montana State University (MSU) and the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) are announcing an essay competition for MSU students. We are soliciting analytic essays on three comprehensive topics.

Our goal is to provoke innovative thinking among MSU students who value the often elusive conjunction between ecology, responsible liberty, and modest prosperity.  MSU faculty have been nationally recognized for addressing these issues. This contest has been created to further stimulate new and innovative ways to look at these issues from fresh minds. All essays should be submitted by Thursday, May 1st 2014.



Innovative institutions and organizations for protecting Yellowstone and other American wildlands.

We envision those who write to this question will address new ways of thinking about conservation of public lands. Protected lands matter for several reasons, some cultural as well as science and economic (ecosystem services). This topic clearly invites exploration from many disciplinary perspectives.  These are influenced by the reason(s) for initial conservation.

We want essays presenting novel and creative ways to balance “nature protectionists – advocates for the exclusion of people from bounded protected areas.  Others, "social conservationists" – those who think conservation can and could simultaneously advance an agenda for human well-being.  What political and economic arrangements foster the latter?



Threats to America's wild and scenic lands posed by growing federal and state entitlements.  These include political "third rails", notably Medicare, Social Security, and promised pensions.  How can the values of parks and wild lands be perpetuated as budgetary pressures increase?  These surely will for they are driven by undeniable demographic forces. 

Everything has trade offs and not all good things easily go together. Given anticipated political and fiscal pressures, conservation and environmental protection may not make the public’s “short list”. Orthodox wisdom often treats protected lands as luxury goods not necessities.  We hope people will test that assertion while rethinking the current budget process; it will inevitably force untenable tradeoffs between social welfare and conservation of public lands. What new fiscal relationships might support the goals underlying public lands agencies and the conservation minded public?



Lessons from the American Prairie Reserve ( Complexity, Coordination and Conservation.  What can we learn from this Montana experiment in environmental entrepreneurship?

While Montana is rarely on the forefront of enlightened public policy, it often leads the world of nonprofit oriented action. Two examples are the Bozeman-based Warriors and Quiet Waters program ( and the American Prairie Reserve. Both are stellar examples of private social and financial capital mobilized for public and individual wellbeing. These exemplify efforts to preserve core values of human dignity while encouraging prosperity. We hope those who respond to this topic will consider how the American Prairie Reserve experiment may be exported to other settings.  Consider the future of rural areas, cultural and social, in addition to the sustainability of agriculture.



The winning essay from each topic field will receive two annual passes to all American National Parks for the 2014 season, a one night stay at the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park, and dinner for two at the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room.

The winners from each topic will be entered to win the Grand Prize; the Grand Prize winner will be awarded a $500 check and the publication of their Op-ed piece.

Information on an awards banquet to come in the future.



Submit your essay to by May 1st, 2014. In your email make sure that the subject line contains the topic which you are writing your essay about. Your submission should include your essay and the Official Entry form as your cover page.

Official Entry form.docx



Judges seek thoroughly researched but non-technical papers. Winning papers will present clear and provocative ideas that are more than mere opinion pieces. Papers should incorporate the values that make Yellowstone and other areas of American wilderness alluring. The papers should be well-researched, footnoted, and be “A” quality papers. In addition to your paper; Please include a 600-700 word publishing quality op-ed that discuss your research and conclusions.




All esays should be written in 12pt Times New Roman font 1.5 line spacing and should be cited in a standard collegiate format (Chicago-Turabian, MLA, APA). Your first page should be the Official Entry form provided. In the header of every page you should include your first and last name. The footer of your doccuments should contain page numbers. Entries that do not follow these direcetions will not be included for awards consideration.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who can participate in this competition?

A: This competition is open to all students at MSU from any college or major, undergraduate and graduate alike.

Q: In what format should the essay be?

A: The essay should be formatted with a standard collegiate format; 12pt Times New Roman font;1.5 line spacing; MLA, Chicago-Turabian, or APA citations: footnote citations and a bibliography/appendix

Q: How do I submit my essay?

A: Essays can be submitted via with your choice of topics in the subject line;

E.X. Subject: TOPIC 1

Q: Do the sponsors of this competition support a specific agenda?

A: The short answer is yes. Essays should seek solutions that seek to present alternatives to traditional models of public lands management that is; structures that are highly centralized at the federal level. We are looking to the future for solutions. Solutions should balance ecology and individual liberty while promoting forms of prosperity.

Q: What is the op-ed?

A: The op-ed piece is a 600-700 word summary of your findings. It might also advocate your preferred reforms. This piece will highlight the problem and describe potential solutions. The op-ed should be understandable to someone who did not go through your research and should hold the reader’s attention.

Q: How will the essays be judged?

A: Essays will be judged by one of the three panels, one per topic area. When these panels have decided the winner in each group the winning papers will be distributed to each panel. The panels combined will then decide the grand prize winner.

Q: Can I submit multiple essays?

A: No, only one essay per individual.

Q: Can I collaborate with another author?

Yes, but the awards are given by essay, not by author. Two collaborative authors who write a winning essay will receive the same reward as a single winning author.

Further questions?

If you have any further questions please feel free to contact Dr. Jerry Johnson in the MSU Department of Political Science at: