A Land of Stories: SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism Awards $43,281 to Support Stories on U.S. Public Lands

The Society of Environmental Journalists’ Fund for Environmental Journalism has awarded $43,281 for 14 new story projects selected through the Winter 2019-2020 round of competition for stories about public lands in the United States. More than 70 percent of the funds were awarded to story projects that focus on communities and perspectives that have traditionally been underrepresented in coverage of public lands.

The recipients of the Fund for Environmental Journalism Winter 2019-2020 Round are:

  • Leslie Baehr, for “Leave It to Beaver: Beaver restoration in the Los Padres National Forest area,” about how a creature mistakenly left out of Southern California history could revive its watershed.
  • Lorraine Boissoneault, for “The Cost of Copper Mining for Lake Superior and Indigenous Land.” As Minnesota moves forward with two copper mines in Superior National Forest, environmental organizations and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa raise the alarm about potential damage to freshwater systems.
  • Katharine Gammon, for “Instagram Is Ruining Public Lands; Can Selfie Stations Save Them?” Social media is leading to a deluge of new visitors to public lands, and some of them are not respecting the land. Now, parks are experimenting with new ways to curb the desire to get the breathtaking shot. Will it work?
  • Jude Isabella, for “Cattle on the Coast.” Chirikof Island, Alaska, is part of a US National Refuge created in 1980 where hundreds of imported feral cattle gnaw vegetation to nubs, stumble through salmon-bearing streams and trample archaeological sites — the cattle have to go, but where? Photo by Grant Callegari.
  • Claire McNeill and John Pendygraft, for “Climate Change and Southern Florida: the Dry Tortugas, Florida Keys, and the Miccosukee Tribe.” Tampa Bay Times journalists Claire McNeill and John Pendygraft report from an “indicator park” for climate change, the tourism-reliant and tourism-damaged Florida Keys, and the ailing native lands of the Miccosukee Tribe, assembling a human-centric portrait of climate change up close.
  • Rico Moore, for “Ancestral Territory or Public Lands?: Indigenous sovereignty and reporting on Bears Ears.” The success story, told in a culturally sensitive and equitable fashion, shows how conflict over narratives framing Ancestral Territory/Public Lands in the context of Bears Ears can turn into collaboration and mutual success.
  • Jennifer Oldham, for “Commercial Honeybees and the Impact on Fragile Ecosystems on Public Lands in Arizona and Utah.” This project for Yale Environment 360 will investigate how federal agencies permitted scores of honeybee hives on national forests and other public lands despite scientific research that shows the non-native insects’ voracious appetites endanger solitary native bees and put ecosystems at risk.
  • Amanda Peacher, for “Nonprofits Fill Public Lands Staffing and Outreach Gaps.” Community organizations are taking on new roles in public lands stewardship, and also breaking ground with outreach to communities of color.
  • Karen Pinchin, for “Toxic Waters,” an investigation into the climate-change-fueled threat of toxin-producing harmful algal blooms in the United States.
  • Jason Plautz, for “The Four Corners Potato: Restoring a Native Food Source and Bears Ears National Monument.” This story will explore an ongoing effort to revive the Four Corners Potato, and how it has become a symbol in the fight to protect the Bears Ears National Monument.
  • Carl Sergerstrom, for “The Forest Service Is Cutting More Timber and Axing Public Input.” Stoked by fire fears and beetle outbreaks, Congress is giving the agency more authority to cut timber and shutting out public involvement.
  • Jimmy Tobias, for “Wiring the Wild: National Park Service plans to expand wireless access on public lands in the West,” a front-page feature story for High Country News about the rapid expansion of telecommunications infrastructure on public lands across the West.
  • Ted Wood and Jim Robbins, for “Are the Days of Mining on Public Lands Numbered?” A novel interpretation of the 1872 Mining Law could protect public lands and tribal rights. The hard rock mining industry could be facing its biggest challenge since 1872, after a federal judge recently ruled that despoiling public lands with mining waste violated the mining law itself.
  • Wudan Yan, for “The Uranium Widows.” Much of the uranium that was used to develop nuclear weapons was mined in Navajo Nation during the Cold War years. Men toiled in the mines but many died of lung disease or cancer, leaving their wives and children behind. For this project, Yan will explore the continued toll and legacy of uranium mining through the lives of the widows. Photo by Ramon Dompor.
    Major underwriting for the Winter 2019-2020 coverage project grants was generously provided by The Hewlett Foundation, The Wilderness Society, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Additional support was provided by individual donors to the Fund for Environmental Journalism and to the “Lizzie” Grant for reporting on environmental health, in honor of longtime SEJ member Elizabeth “Lizzie” Grossman.

All Fund for Environmental Journalism Grantees retain full authority over editorial and publishing decisions. Through its FEJ program, the Society of Environmental Journalists maintains a firewall between news decisions and sources of grant support. Independent and separate agreements are maintained between SEJ and FEJ grantees and between SEJ and donors whose generous contributions make unique journalism projects possible.

Contribute now to SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism and help journalists tell the most important stories in the world: https://www.sej.org/donate-sej.

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