Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources

Mission & History

The mission of the Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources (IJNR) is to advance public understanding and civic engagement about issues of environment protection, resource conservation and responsible economic development through better journalism.

IJNR conducts expedition-style programs of training and professional development for journalists at all career stages and from all sorts and sizes of news outlets—ranging from newspapers and magazines to radio, television and online operations. To supplement and reinforce its field-based training programs, IJNR provides year-round coaching and mentoring for journalists, along with constant access to web-based tools designed to support their ongoing work. Over time, the increased accuracy, depth and perspective in news coverage generated by these journalists help to promote greater public awareness, better-informed civic discourse, expanded citizen engagement, and more responsible decision-making.

Effective journalists must be well versed in the complex subjects they cover. Just as a competent crime-beat reporter needs to visit crime scenes and cop shops, and just as a responsible education-beat reporter needs attend school-board meetings and visit schools, so the journalists who cover resources, conservation, growth, development and the environment need to observe first-hand what is happening to resources and to the communities that depend on them.

Since its inception in 1995, IJNR has demonstrated consistently that journalists improve their understanding of the complexity of these issues by encountering natural places and development sites in person and by exploring the issues in context. As a result, the journalists are prepared to explain the issues and their contexts to the audiences they serve.

IJNR began modestly as an experimental, part-time project at the University of Montana's School of Journalism. The first "expedition" served 16 mid-career American journalists representing news outlets ranging in from High Country News and the Missoula Independent to CNN and USA Today. The two-week journey enabled these reporters and editors to examine urgent resource-protection issues confronting forests, fisheries, farms, ranches and parklands throughout the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, including the Rocky Mountain Front, the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, the Flathead Valley, and Glacier National Park.

Building on its initial successes in 1995 and 1996, the UM experimental project expanded in 1997 by creating a second expedition-style program in Maine. In December of that year, IJNR became incorporated as an independent, public-interest nonprofit group led by Frank Edward Allen, who had left the university to serve as full-time executive director.

Since then, IJNR has helped more than 620 journalists from 38 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and overseas to improve their knowledge about issues of resource conservation, water, energy, land use, growth, development, fisheries, forests, farming, outdoor recreation, climate destabilization and ecological sustainability. As of 2010, IJNR has conducted 44 expedition-style Institutes in a wide variety of settings, ranging from the Great Lakes Basin, the Chesapeake Bay and coastal Georgia to the Northern Rockies, the Four Corners region, California and the Pacific Northwest.