Environmental Writing

The Environmental Writing focus offers students the opportunity to develop their writing skills and interests in ways that promote and demonstrate environmental concerns, awareness, and sensitivities. The culminating project for the Writing focus can be a thesis, professional paper, or portfolio. The diversity of thesis project possibilities (see Thesis/Portfolio Summary tab at top of page) mirrors, on a Program scale, the great range in what is often called Nature Writing, Environmental Writing, or the Writing of Place in the wider culture.

Students are encouraged to conceive of their Writing focus thesis project as either a book in progress, a prototype for a book, a series of related non-fiction creative works with individual publication possibilities, and/or a thorough book proposal, including sample chapters or excerpts.  Environmental Writing thesis work should be original, compelling, and impassioned; grounded in knowledge of the tradition and field; informed and critical as to the issues it raises; and written to publication standards.

Courses Offered

3 credits

Offered fall

Instructor: Phil Condon

Environmental Writing is a workshop class designed to help students hone their writing of environmental subjects and concerns for a general audience. The course inspires, challenges, and encourages students in their writing, and introduces them to a wide range of readings.  The workshop is a community of writers based in honesty, courtesy, commitment to craft, and shared enthusiasm for good writing and a more thoughtful world.  In addition to short assignments - the course requires four large writing projects: two original essays, a significant revision of one essay, and a polished edit of the other. Student work will be read and discussed by class.

3 credits

Offered spring

Instructor: Phil Condon

This course focuses on the study of nature, environmental, and place-based writing,  with emphasis on the American tradition and contemporary work and its  relationship to twenty-first century environmental concerns, challenges, and opportunities.

3 credits

Offered spring

Instructor: Varies

The Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer in the Environmental Studies Program brings an outstanding writer to teach a semester-long graduate writing course in Environmental Studies each spring semester.

Chris Dombrowski (Body of Water, forthcoming from Milkweed) will be the 2017 Visiting Writer.  Previous visiting writers include Sharman Apt Russell, William deBuys  Janisse Ray, Rick Bass, David Oates, Rebecca Solnit, Craig Childs, Terry Tempest Williams, Gary Ferguson, Kim Todd, Robert Michael Pyle, Annick Smith, and the Visiting Writer Program’s namesake, William Kittredge.

Selected faculty from other departments and programs who offer courses of major interest and relevance to writing focus students include the following:

  • Christopher Preston, Philosophy: Environmental Ethics & Environmental Philosophy
  • David Moore, English: Ecocriticism, Native American Literature, Green Literature
  • Steve Schwartz, Communications: Environmental Rhetoric
  • Judy Blunt and David Gates, English: Creative Writing Nonfiction
  • Matt Frank, Journalism: Environmental Reporting

Environmental Writing Opportunities

Environmental Writing Institute

The Environmental Writing Institute (EWI) is a workshop led by a nationally known environmental writer each fall and attended by a combination of second-year Environmental Studies student writers with other writers, teachers, and students from around the country. Prospective graduate students are encouraged to apply to EWI to learn more about the Program and western Montana. Previous EWI instructors have included David James Duncan, Richard Manning, Rick Bass, Elizabeth Grossman, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Sharman Apt Russell, Janisse Ray, Kim Todd, Phil Condon, John Elder, Robert Michael Pyle, and many others.

Camas: The Nature of the West, Environmental Literary Magazine

Founded by Environmental Studies graduate students at the University of Montana in 1992, Camas is a biannual environmental literary magazine produced by students in the Environmental Studies program. Two editors are chosen each year to publish two issues of the magazine in an effort to encourage a dialogue on environmental and cultural issues in the West; celebrate the people who work, study, write, and live here; and provide an opportunity for students and emerging writers to publish their work alongside established environmental authors.

Wild Mercy Reading Series

This reading series features nature and environmental writing by environmental studies graduate students, Environmental Studies Visiting Writers, and alumni. The series runs every Thursday evening for two months in the spring, and features two writers each evening. 

Prairie Songs

This community reading event held in downtown Missoula is coordinated by Camas editors and features prominent area writers, along with live music. Past readers include David James Duncan, Janisse Ray, Tami Haaland, Sheryl Noethe, Annick Smith, Phil Condon, Josh Slotnick, Bryce Andrews, Amy Ratto Parks, and Melissa Mylchreest.

Other Information


Phil Condon Professor, EVST

Office: Earth
Email: phil.condon@mso.umt.edu
Field of Study:

Environmental/Nature Writing, Readings, Literature, Thought.