SEJ's 32nd Annual Conference • #SEJ2023 | Boise, ID | April 19-23 • Contact

Co-Chairs Welcome Letter

Welcome to Boise! #SEJ2023

After two decades of wooing, and a half-dozen years in booking, planning, rethinking, rescheduling, recovering and rebooking after COVID, SEJ Boise is on!

Enriched by all the time we’ve had to shape it, our program will showcase key regional and national issues set against Idaho’s staggering natural beauty. Rimmed by the Northwest’s emerald corridor and riven by the Continental Divide, the Gem State is where the Rockies meet the plains of the Great Basin.

SEJ’s Boise conference has seen an unprecedented surge of enthusiasm. It was first evident a year ago in Houston, when people already were buzzing about going to Boise a year out. Maybe it’s because so many of us were ready to bust out of lockdown, maybe because Idaho is an exotic location if you live on the East Coast or in the Midwest and maybe because SEJ itself is changing in remarkable ways. Conference attendees are trending significantly younger, and — thanks to a partnership with The Uproot Project — more reflective of the country’s diversity. New members are revitalizing SEJ and helping SEJ veteran volunteer leaders navigate a generational transformation with renewed energy.

Like many states in the West, Idaho is politically crimson red with some blue spots, like in its capital city. And Boise is a boomtown – one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Rapid growth in science and technology has outpaced Idaho’s historic economies of ag and natural resource extraction.

Some of you have asked, why come to a place that has made headlines for banning abortions and banning books? Because the state is studded with stories of both environmental conflict and cooperation. Our theme has never changed. Idaho is a state of contradictions. The strong anti-government streak in Idaho is coupled with an equally strong commitment to the landscape and ecosystems. As a result, conservationists and resource extractors have found ways to bridge the divide and find common ground. And that’s a blueprint other places might do well to follow.

We kick off with the president of Boise State University and the mayor of Boise, representing our two co-hosts this year. We’ll hear from the Idaho governor, as well as Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, who is trying to change the debate on Northwest salmon and dams, and from his partner, Nez Perce tribal leader Shannon Wheeler. On our signature Thursday all-day field trips, you’ll learn about wolves, wildfires, agricultural workers, new mining efforts and birds of prey.

You will hear from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary in U.S. history. Together we’ll watch the new Ken Burns documentary American Buffalo, meet SEJ’s Board of Directors, examine the intersection of gender and environment, hear about Idaho’s connection to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique and ponder environmental fiction. That’s just a sampling of what you’ll find in this year’s conference, which is true to its theme of “Crossing the Divide: Urban Growth and the Wild.”

Welcome to Boise!

Your #SEJ2023 conference chairs,

Christy George, Idaho-adjacent public radio editor
Tom Michael, general manager, Boise State Public Radio

Photo Credit: Courtesy Crystal Z. Shi / Unsplash