October 5, 2022 — The Society of Environmental Journalists' Fund for Environmental Journalism has awarded $47,342 for 12 projects selected through the 2022 round of competition for stories on U.S. public lands (lands owned and/or managed by federal, state, local or tribal governments).
Through these grants, SEJ will:
- Fund Journalists: 21 reporters, photographers, editors, producers, designers and researchers will receive stipends or contracts.
- Increase Representation: 100% of the story projects focus on under-represented communities or share diverse perspectives on environmental issues.
- Support Local Stories: Half of the projects will tell the story of a local community, ranging from the Klamath River to the Chesapeake Bay.
"We are grateful to our generous funders for providing the essential financial support that will make it possible for environmental journalists to conduct in-depth reporting on undercovered issues and marginalized communities that are too often left out of public lands coverage," said SEJ Executive Director Meaghan Parker.
This independently juried competition is generously underwritten by The Wilderness Society, the Hewlett Foundation and other foundation and individual donors to the Fund for Environmental Journalism, including donors to the "Lizzie" Fund for stories on environmental health, in memory of Elizabeth "Lizzie" Grossman.
The recipients of the Fund for Environmental Journalism 2022 Round are:
Tristan Ahtone for "Extractive Universities"
Land grant universities' dirty secret isn't fossil fuel-laden investment portfolios; it's their direct involvement in oil, gas, timber and other resource extraction on lands they own or benefit from. Those activities are conducted on Indigenous lands raising questions about low-cost education and a just climate future built on expropriated territories.
Britny Cordera for "Mound City: How Consulting Tribal Leaders and TEK Rematriate North America's Sacred Mound Sites"
During forced removal in the United States in the 1800s, mound sites along the Mississippi River were being leveled one by one to make way for cities and industrialization. Mounds built between 600-1600 AD now exist on unprotected public lands with little to no tribal consultation presiding over their constitution. Some mounds are in affluent neighborhoods serving as a spot for dogs to defecate or are being used as golf courses by country clubs, while others are surrounded by landfills and industrial pollution. With the use of sound design and journalism this story investigates how urbanization and industrial pollution effects culturally significant public lands in Missouri, Ohio and Minnesota, and the communities near them, highlighting how important it is to have Indigenous voices at the table when it comes to stewarding these sites so their history and neighbors don't go forgotten.
Ruth Dusseault for "Erie Rights"
This two-layered investigation includes a summary of patterned actions by industrial and political entities that oppose rights-of-nature laws across the U.S. This story will also visit select cases in Florida and the Great Lakes, where the story is told by the bipartisan voters who fight for these laws to be enacted in their communities.
Delger Erdenesanaa, Meridith Kohut and Kathryn Jones (pictured, left to right) for "Brazos River Project"
As part of a series called Drifting Toward Disaster, the Texas Observer takes a look at myriad pollution and overuse problems that plague the Brazos and other Texas rivers and the people and public lands all along them.
Andria Hautamaki for "The Future of Grazing: Rangeland Resilience, Grazing Permits and a Changing Climate"
In the Western United States, sheep and cattle ranchers rely on private and public lands to meet their annual forage needs. How might public land grazing permits adapt to evolving climate conditions and improve rural communities' economic, social and environmental resiliency?
- "Stewards of the Range" (PDF), Western Horseman magazine, April 2023.
Randall Hyman for "A Novel Climate Preserve for the NPS"
With climate change on fast forward and public lands increasingly impacted, conservationists in southernmost Illinois are pushing to transform a national forest into a new kind of national park. This novel park, called a climate preserve, would put trees first in fighting global warming while allowing recreational uses not usually included on NPS lands. The movement has ignited controversy, but proponents are shooting to introduce legislation by April 2024 when the next great American eclipse crosses center stage on Shawnee National Forest for the second time in seven years.
- "A New Job for Old Forests," Earth Island Journal, Winter 2023.
Mary Miller for "Redemption River: Removing Dams and Restoring the Klamath River"
In a decades-long effort to restore salmon habitat and tribal rights on the Klamath River, a coalition of tribal members, lawmakers, conservationists, scientists, farmers and fishers have cleared the final hurdles to embark on the largest dam removal project in United States history. The stories behind this monumental decision to remove four dams in Northern California and Oregon to create the longest free-flowing river in the West is a fascinating case study of conflict and compromise, setbacks and progress as the river and its fish recover. Central to the story are five tribes who've lived along the Klamath for 7000 years and their fight for ancestral rights to water, healthy fish and a clean, free-flowing river.
Talli Nauman for "Second Black Hills Gold Rush Evokes Popular Pushback"
They call it "the second Black Hills Gold Rush." Tribal members and allies are rallying community participation in decisions on a recent barrage of mining-related proposals facing public lands managers. New corporate claim-staking and mineral exploration portend megaprojects that could upset an already delicate balance of competing interests in this Native treaty territory.
Marissa Ortega-Welch for "Wildly Collaborative"
Wilderness areas in the West are facing environmental impacts from increased visitation, climate change and fire suppression. As part of an independently-produced radio series about wilderness, journalist Marissa Ortega-Welch looks into "shared stewardship" models as a way for land managers to involve the public in wilderness management decisions.
Ian Stevenson for "H-2A Shepherds and Their Place in Idaho"
For decades, shepherds have come to the U.S. on special work visas, but a lawsuit from an immigrant rights' group and court orders in the last few years have shortened the time shepherds can receive visas for. This project explores how these visa changes have affected shepherds and the ranching industry. It will feature the stories of some of these shepherds, who advocates argue are vulnerable to exploitation because they often do not speak English and work in remote regions.
Jimmy Tobias for "Body Count: Grizzly Bears, Illegal Killing and the Endangered Species Act"
This feature story is a document-based investigation into how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has responded in recent years to the poaching and illegal take of four public-land dependent species: grizzly bears, Mexican wolves, red wolves and Florida panthers. All of these animals have been illegally killed in significant numbers in the last decade and the piece will explore the federal government’s spotty track record of holding perpetrators accountable. This story, based on FOIA records and on-the-ground reporting in the American West, will be published prior to the Endangered Species Act’s 50th anniversary in The Intercept.
Duy Linh Tu for "Along the Chesapeake"
The Chesapeake Bay, the country's largest estuary and home to millions, is suffocating. Unchecked pollution, massive algae blooms and wetter storms and warmer waters caused by climate change are threatening marine life and human livelihoods. Seventy percent of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is public land, and the water keepers, a group of scientists and activists determined to protect the bay, are racing to reverse decades of damage.
- "Will the Chesapeake Bay Become a Dead Zone?" Scientific American, May 3, 2023.
About the Fund for Environmental Journalism
SEJ's Fund for Environmental Journalism invests in public service reporting on environment and the journalists who produce it. FEJ grants support development and dissemination of significant coverage that otherwise could not be completed. Winning projects will be selected by an independent jury of journalists based on newsworthiness, topical relevance, publication plan and track record of the applicant, among other factors.
Fund for Environmental Journalism story project grants from 2010-2024 have been funded by The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Bullitt Foundation, Burning River Foundation, Compton Foundation, Cornelius King Foundation, Cornell Douglas Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Energy Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Grantham Foundation for the Environment, The Heinz Endowments, Hewlett Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Religion & Environment Story Project, Spring Point Partners, The Walton Family Foundation, The Wilderness Society, Wyss Foundation, and individual members and friends of the Society of Environmental Journalists.
Grantees retain full editorial control of FEJ-funded coverage. Donors have no right of review and no influence on story plans made possible in part by their contributions. Binding agreements between donors and the Society of Environmental Journalists and between SEJ and grantees of its Fund for Environmental Journalism reinforce this policy of editorial independence.
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