SEJ's 30th Annual Conference • #SEJ2020 • Boise, ID • Sept. 23-27, 2020 • Contact

Co-Chairs Welcome Letter

“Crossing the Divide: Urban Growth and the Wild”

Welcome to one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. in one of the reddest states in the nation, and prepare to be surprised!

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.

And in a year marked by a global pandemic that foreshadows future health threats as the climate changes, 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. Idaho’s ability to pull together people with clashing values may serve to guide the world out of our current calamity.

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.

Members 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 two 2020 conference chairs and professional freelancers,

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

 

Photo Credit: Courtesy Crystal Z. Shi / Unsplash