Tonight marks the beginning of the Society of Environmental Journalists' 20th annual conference here in Missoula—a noteworthy fact, given that SEJ hasn't hosted the event in the mountain west in 16 years. More than 600 journalists, environmentalists and government officials will descend on the Garden City for five days of dinners, tours, panels and workshops, and this year's conference boasts some pretty high-profile characters (no, we're not talking about Sen. Jon Tester and former Montana Congressman Pat Williams, the keynote speakers at tonight's opening banquet). Visitors will be thicker in town than conservatives at a wolf debate, so keep your eyes open.
Some of the folks you might see around town this weekend include National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, acclaimed documentary filmmaker and writer Dayton Duncan, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Director Jane Lubchenco and Center for Biological Diversity Director Kierán Suckling. Montana's representing itself well, though, with the likes of author Richard Manning, Wilderness Watch Executive Director George Nickas and resident U.S. Fish and Wildlife bear expert Chris Servheen joining an already top-notch list of speakers.
Sadly, the University of Montana-hosted SEJ event ain't cheap—non-member registration is $1,100. But we'll keep you apprised of any interesting developments from the inside, and there's bound to be plenty of action when the official business of plenary sessions and meet-and-greets wraps. It's a good bet these folks will get thirsty, and if Missoula's known for anything, it's known for excellent watering holes.