VQR is proud to announce that contributing editor Elliott D. Woods has received the Whitman Bassow Award for the best reporting in any medium on international environmental issues for “The Fight for Chinko,” published in the Summer 2016 issue.
Woods is a UVA alumnus (COL ’08) as well as a former VQR intern. Barely six months after graduating from UVA, he traveled to Gaza on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and filed “Easter in Gaza” for VQR. Previous work of his for VQR has received citations from the Overseas Press Club (“Hope’s Coffin”), has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Reporting (“Digging Out”), and has won the Digital National Magazine Award for Multimedia Package (“Assignment Afghanistan: Third Squad”). His other work has appeared in Outside Magazine, Businessweek, Granta, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, and elsewhere.
From the start of “The Fight for Chinko,” one thing is devastatingly clear: The Central African Republic is not for the faint of heart. It’s populated with lethal threats—AK-47–toting cattle herders, bush-meat hunters, and elephant poachers. At the intersection of all these destabilizing forces is the Chinko Project nature reserve, a refuge for a vanishing wildlife population and the subject of Woods’s award-winning story. The preserve is twice the size of Yellowstone—nearly 7,000 square miles in total. It is as bold a conservation project as any carried out by the United Nations or the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Astonishingly, not one of its founders is over the age of thirty.
About his remarkable subjects, Woods says, “coverage of international environmental issues often focuses on major nonprofits, atmospheric carbon, charismatic endangered species, and transnational climate agreements. The people who are on the violent frontlines of habitat and wildlife conservation don’t often get the recognition that they deserve, and they’re certainly not seeking it. And yet, without them, there would not be an environment or wildlife left to save. I’m humbled to receive this award, and I dedicate it to them.”
Woods brings to life the fascinating dichotomy between the fight for preservation and the fight for human survival in this unstable area. He accompanies rangers on patrol, sitting in on their training sessions and touring the reserve on foot and by bush plane with Chinko’s staff biologists as they catalog the reserve’s flora and fauna. About Woods’s unassailable work, VQR editor Paul Reyes says, “Elliott is the archetype of the intrepid reporter. Whether it’s Afghanistan or Myanmar or Tahrir Square, his instincts always lead him toward incredibly compelling stories. And of course what sets him apart is the fact that his stories all possess an intelligence and insight that rival the endurance required to chase them down.”
Reporting for this project was funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Read the full story here: http://www.vqronline.org/reporting-articles/2016/07/fight-chinko