The Idaho Environmental Forum (IEF) community lost a dear friend, colleague, and regular forum participant, Dr. John Freemuth, who passed away on May 2nd. Dr. Freemuth served as the Cecil D. Andrus endowed chair for Environment and Public Lands at Boise State, and as most of you know, was a trusted source on environmental policy matters for policymakers and journalists, often being quoted in the Idaho Statesman, on radio, and on the evening news. John made insightful contributions to the conversation surrounding public lands through his presentations, books, and journal articles.
Just last week, IEF board member, Tim Murphy (retired Idaho State Director for BLM), was working with John on developing a segment to be the first in a new IEF project called Hot Topics, which is an alternative to the lunch time forum during this COVID-19 era. As Tim stated, “John had his inquisitive and intellectual sleeves rolled up, balancing stark reality with a positive vision for improvement. A great Idahoan, a great loss.”
As you may recall, John made his last appearance at an IEF program in September 2019, a program on the move of the Bureau of Land Management headquarters from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, CO. He provided his perspectives on current and past reorganization efforts, and reported on his appearance as a witness at a September hearing in Washington, D.C. where the House Committee on Natural Resources reviewed the proposed relocation.
John was always the teacher, regardless of the setting. IEF board member Andy Brunelle (Capital City Coordinator for USFS) recalled, “John was always available and provided a valuable perspective to complex environmental and natural resource issues.” Following an IEF forum that included John, an audience participant stated to Andy, “If Freemuth has taught me anything, it is that no matter how much we try to justify our decision making by couching it in scientific terms, personal value choices will overrule any rational choice model used to determine priorities...”
John not only participated in IEF forums, but he was on the IEF steering committee in the late 1990s to 2007. Murray Feldman, environmental attorney and a former IEF board member, stated, “John was a longtime member of the IEF steering committee back in the relatively early days, and even afterwards always a gracious participant in various IEF programs, including the annual legislative forecast event many times. He indeed will be greatly missed.”
In summary, John embodied what IEF was all about. He provided serious, cordial, and productive discourse on so many important environmental policies and issues affecting Idaho and the West, and always with a sense of humor. On behalf of the IEF community, thank you John for all you have done for Idaho; your contribution is so much appreciated. You truly made Idaho a better place.