SEJ's 30th Anniversary Conference • #SEJ2020 | Virtual | Sept. 16, 17, 23, 30 • #SEJ2021 | Boise, ID | June 2-6 • Contact

Co-Chairs Welcome Letter

COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in countless ways, including forcing SEJ to postpone our annual conference for the first time in 30 years.

While we’ve moved the in-person conference in Boise to June 2-6, 2021 (#SEJ2021), our 2020 Virtual Conference (#SEJ2020) convened the SEJ community to investigate environmental angles on the 2020 elections and other timely events, celebrate the winners of the SEJ Awards for Reporting on the Environment, and preview workshops, tours and panels coming in June.


Virtual: September 16, 17, 23 and 30, 2020

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In-Person: June 2-6, 2021

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Welcome to a double-barreled Boise conference!

As fact-based journalists, we all understand why we need to stay safe while COVID-19 continues to rage.

In a year marked by a global pandemic that foreshadows future health threats as the climate changes, a renewed national focus on racial and environmental justice, a deeply stressed economy and a choice between two dramatically competing political futures, you’ll hear what may lie ahead for the environment in 2021 and beyond.

We’re lucky that our meeting place has so much to offer that we’ll still have trouble fitting it all into virtual meetings in September and an IRL (In Real Life) conference next June.

Boise itself is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. in one of the reddest states in the nation — but prepare to be surprised!

Idaho’s ability to pull together people with clashing values may serve to guide the world out of our multiple current calamities.

Yes, there’s that classic Western rural-urban divide here, but somehow Idahoans have found creative ways to cross it. In this existential election year, you’ll hear about years of successful collaborative partnerships from the Owyhee Initiative to the Payette Forest Partnership.

The Gem State’s beauty will blow you away. Under azure skies, surrounded by wilderness and ringed by lapis lazuli mountains dotted with aquamarine lakes, the City of Trees nestles into a verdant valley — home to our host, Boise State University’s sapphire blue football field and a steel blue river that wanders through the state capitol. In the summer, you can raft the river or go skiing.

After an opening day of workshops on oceans and public lands and climate change, you’ll be introduced to the state’s uncommonly collaborative culture, and then set out on a Thursday field trip to one of Idaho’s amazing landscapes.

Attendees will follow the salmon to Redfish Lake and examine the threats to the endangered fish that climb 6,500 feet and swim 900 miles to spawn in the Sawtooth Mountains. Other tours will examine forests and fire, water quality and agriculture, outdoor recreation, grazing, sage grouse, wolves and climate change.

We’ll end the day with a jam-packed hospitality night, a chance to sample wild salmon, roast beef, homegrown brews, delicious Idaho wine and, of course, those famous potatoes.

Then we’ll plunge into two days of everything from the interaction between Snake and Columbia River dams, Idaho salmon and orcas from the Salish Sea to climate equity to environmental economics to avoiding extinctions to mining cleanups to tribal sovereignty to regenerative farming to the future of fire to Western water to smart cities and stupid infrastructure to encroaching cougars and skydiving beavers!

And there will be a plethora of craft panels, too, on how to create your own collaborative projects and deploy edgy journalism teaching tools, working in the gig economy and how to cover unheard voices, rural America and looming disasters.

We’ll cap off Saturday with a bevy of mini-tours and an evening celebration of SEJ’s 30th anniversary, featuring a slew of local and global environmental collaborations, including by our venue, Zoo Boise, which features a re-creation of Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park.

On Sunday morning, we’ll talk books over breakfast before people depart for home or on a post-conference tour that includes two spectacular landscapes: Idaho’s mountain forests and Yellowstone National Park.

So whether you’re hiking in the Sawtooths, marveling at the wingspan of a raptor, tasting Basque paella and tapas, dodging wildfire smoke or members of the Bundy clan, Boise will be one of the most memorable SEJ conferences yet!

Your #SEJ2020 and #SEJ2021 conference chairs and professional freelancers,

Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman scribe
Christy George, Idaho-adjacent public radio editor

Photo Credit: Courtesy Crystal Z. Shi / Unsplash