St. Thomas is co-host to international environmental history conference

This 1844 watercolor of Fort Snelling by John Casper Wild is on the cover of the conference program. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society.)

St. Thomas is co-host to international environmental history conference

More than 400 scholars representing universities and institutions from throughout North America and Europe will be in St. Paul March 29 to April 1 for the joint annual meeting of the American Society for Environmental History and the Forest History Society.

Historians, anthropologists, literary scholars, political scientists, geographers, city planners and ecologists will participate in more than 250 panel presentations, exhibits, banquets, field trips and a plenary session on environmental journalism that will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists.

The conference, “Rivers Run Through Them: Landscapes in Environmental History,” will be headquartered at the Crowne Plaza St. Paul-Riverfront hotel.

The conference is sponsored by the National Park Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and is hosted by the Department of Political Science and Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of St. Thomas, and by the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences and College of Natural Resources at the University of Minnesota.

One of the highlights of the conference, a plenary session with three noted journalists, is free and open to the public. Their discussion on how environmental stories have become history will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 30, in the Great River Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza St. Paul-Riverfront hotel. Tickets or registration are not required for this event.

The three journalists who will speak that evening are William Dietrich of Seattle, Tom Meersman of Minneapolis, and Mike Mansur of Kansas City. The program’s moderator will be Dr. Mark Neuzil, who teaches environmental journalism at St. Thomas.

Dietrich is the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his part in the Seattle Times’ coverage of the Exxon Valdez accident, a Neiman fellow at Harvard, and author of nonfiction, thrillers and historical fiction.

Meersman is an award-winning reporter who has been covering environmental stories in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest for 25 years. A founding board member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, he began his reporting career at Minnesota Public Radio and is now at the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune.

Mansur, of the Kansas City Star, is a past president of the Society of Environmental Journalists. He was on the Star team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on agriculture.

For more information about the March 30 talk, call Dr. Steve Hoffman of the St. Thomas Political Science Department, (651) 962-5723.

Although not open to the public, the conference’s keynote speaker will be noted essayist Scott Russell Sanders, who will discuss “Defining and Defending the Common Wealth” at a Saturday evening banquet on April 1.

The conference is described as an “intellectual confluence” and its focus this year is on landscapes in environmental history, and especially the role of water in creating and defining those landscapes.

Field trips planned throughout the conference also take advantage of the confluence of rivers in this part of Minnesota. The trips include visits to the Mill City Museum and National Center for the Study of Earth Surface in Minneapolis; a tour of the Mississippi River with stops at St. Anthony Falls, Lock and Dam No. 1, Fort Snelling and Indian Mounds Park; the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge; and a look at how communities are dealing with urban sprawl between the Twin Cities and the St. Croix River.

Details about the conference are available on the Web at: