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

SEJ's Fund for Environmental Journalism awards
$43,281 in story project grants in FEJ Winter Cycle 2019-2020


The Society of Environmental Journalists' Fund for Environmental Journalism has awarded $43,281 for 12 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 about undercovered communities or diverse perspectives on 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.

Leslie Baehr is a science writer and content strategist who works with media outlets, research institutions, not-for-profits and companies. An alumna of MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing, with an undergraduate degree in environmental science, she enjoys crafting campaigns and stories that kindle curiosity in nature. You can reach her at lesliegbaehr@gmail.com.

FEJ-funded project:

  • "Dammed If They Don't," Edible Magazine, Fall 2020 (digital version; originally published in print). The article and graphic are also archived on the publication's website.


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.

Lorraine Boissoneault is a Chicago-based journalist who writes about science, history and outdoor adventure for publications like Smithsonian Magazine, The Atlantic, Hakai Magazine, Great Lakes Now and Playboy. She is the author of the narrative nonfiction book "The Last Voyageurs" (Pegasus/2016), a finalist for the Chicago Book of the Year award. You can find her work at www.lboissoneault.com or on Twitter @boissolm.

FEJ-funded project:


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?

Katharine Gammon writes about science, technology and the environment for magazines and websites. Her work has appeared online and in print in The Atlantic, Esquire, WIRED, Newsweek, The New York Times, Smithsonian and The Guardian. She holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton University and a master's from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When not writing, she's often exploring the southern Californian coastline with her husband and two young sons.

FEJ-funded project:


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?

Jude Isabella is the founding editor of Hakai Magazine, an online publication focused on coastal science and societies. Supported by the Tula Foundation, Hakai Magazine has tackled environmental stories around the world — from the problem of cruise ships crowding coastal destinations, to how illegal fishing destabilizes the Somalian government, to the challenges of humans living with crocodiles in Australia. Jude also writes science books for young readers. Her latest book, "Bringing Back the Wolves" (Kids Can Press), will be released in March 2020. Photo by Grant Callegari.

FEJ-funded project:

  • "The Republic of Cows," Hakai Magazine in collaboration with Earth Island Journal, August 15, 2023.


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.

Rico Moore is an award-winning freelance writer whose work focuses on the intersections of the environment and human culture. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He lives in the mountains of northern Colorado with his wife and cat.

FEJ-funded project:


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.

Award-winning freelance journalist Jennifer Oldham’s enterprise and investigative stories expose threats to the environment, as well as how legislators, companies, conservationists and others are working to ameliorate them. Oldham’s pieces appeared in National Geographic, The Center for Investigative Reporting, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, Mother Jones and Slate, among others. She worked as a national correspondent for Bloomberg News for five-and-a-half years and a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times for 15 years covering everything from aviation to business, economic inequality, energy, housing, government, policy and politics.

FEJ-funded project:


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.

Amanda Peacher is an independent reporter and editor who specializes in longform audio stories. She has a long track record of reporting on environmental issues such as public lands, wildfires and climate changes, and also has a special interest in criminal and social justice stories. She’s recently hosted and reported the podcast LOCKED: a disturbing crime, a desperate act and how one case could change the way prisons treat some transgender inmates. Amanda is the recipient of several national journalism awards including an Edward R. Murrow award and two Gracie awards. Her reporting takes her all over the West and is currently based in San Diego. Follow her on Twitter @amandapeacher.

FEJ-funded project:


Karen Pinchin, for "Toxic Waters," an investigation into the climate-change-fueled threat of toxin-producing harmful algal blooms in the United States.

Karen Pinchin is an award-winning Canadian reporter and this year's Tow Journalism Fellow at PBS FRONTLINE. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School’s MA-Science, she started her career at The Canadian Press and Maclean’s, and has regularly written for The Globe and Mail, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus. She is a proud member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors, and lives with her family in Boston, Mass.

Related FEJ-funded project:


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.

Carl Segerstrom reports on the communities and environment of the Western United States from his home in Spokane, Wash. Carl is an assistant editor for High Country News and helps shape the nonprofit magazine's coverage of the Northern region of the West. He grew up in Northern California and has lived and travelled throughout the region.

FEJ-funded project:


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.

Jimmy Tobias is a contributing writer at The Guardian and a contributor at The Nation, where he primarily covers public lands, wildlife and the U.S. Department of the Interior. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Intercept, HuffPost, Outside, High Country News and numerous other outlets. Since 2017, Tobias’ accountability reporting has helped spur federal investigations into three different political appointees at President Trump’s Interior Department.

FEJ-funded project:


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.

Ted Wood is an editorial photographer and multimedia producer based in Boulder, Colorado. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Smithsonian, Newsweek, Time, Yale E360, The New York Times, High Country News, The Nature Conservancy Magazine and other national and international publications. He co-founded The Story Group, a multimedia company specializing in energy and environmental stories mainly in the American West. Wood holds a Masters degree from the Missouri School of Journalism, is a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) and was a recipient of the Ted Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado. Wood is also the author of 10 non-fiction children’s books.

Jim Robbins is a veteran free lance journalist in Helena, Montana. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and Yale's E360 and has written for Smithsonian, Condé Nast Traveler and many other magazines. He has written six books, three on the human brain and nervous system and three on the natural world. His most recent is "The Wonder of Birds," published by Random House in 2017.

FEJ-funded project:


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 of Wudan Yan by Ramon DomporWudan Yan is a Chinese-American magazine writer, storyteller, and photographer. She is often drawn to stories involving contrarian characters, unlikely connections, creative solutions, absurdity, injustice, slow-moving humanitarian and environmental crises — or any combination thereof. Her work appears in BuzzFeed, The California Sunday Magazine, Discover, Columbia Journalism Review, Harper’s, High Country News, Huffington Post, Longreads, Medium, Mongabay, Nature, National Public Radio, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Public Radio International and beyond. Read more. Photo by Ramon Dompor.

FEJ-funded project:


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 its "Lizzie Grant" for stories on environmental health, in memory of 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.