John Freemuth, Boise State professor and expert on public lands policy, has died at 69

John Freemuth at WGA 2018 Western Working Lands Forum


What a loss to so many involved with federal lands policy!  Here’s what the Idaho Statesman had to say on this:

For decades, Freemuth worked closely with former Democratic Idaho governor and Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus, Tracy’s father. Tracy Andrus said they were “pragmatic conservationists” committed to facilitating agreement.

“John believed strongly in dad’s legacy … of a common sense approach,” Tracy Andrus said. “They were both always voices of reason on issues that politically charged.”

Freemuth had a skill for seeing issues from both sides. His objectivity earned him a spot as a moderator at numerous debates and on many panels, where he talked about environmental issues alongside the likes of Bureau of Land Management Director William Perry Pendley.

“He was always so extraordinarily balanced,” said Rick Johnson, retired former director of the Idaho Conservation League.

Johnson serves on the Board of Governors for the Andrus Center, where he worked with Freemuth. Johnson said Freemuth found a way to “blend the practical and the academic on politics.”

Idaho Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said he saw Freemuth’s mediation firsthand when the two served on then-Gov. Phil Batt’s federal lands task force — Bedke as a representative of the livestock industry and Freemuth as an intermediary.

“Scott and John always got along — and people would’ve thought that we wouldn’t have,” said Bedke in a phone interview. “I think that speaks to the man, it speaks to the type of person he was.

“When you’re talking about managing federal lands or natural resources in the West … it’s a complex issue,” Bedke continued. “There are a lot of stakeholders, and everyone has their bias. And yet we’re expected to get along in this multiple-use regime, and John was able to bring good perspective to all of that and balance it out — but not to the elimination of one use or another. It was in a way of finding room for everybody.”

John was my go-to political scientist and friend of  The Smokey Wire.  He was a gracious source of help and encouragement for us, as well as so many others, students, colleagues and all kinds of workers in the public policy arena.

People who work this middle ground tend to be invisible compared to political appointees, or the drama of federal lands warfare.   But they are still out there, every day working to make the world a better, and less hateful, place. Probably getting disparaged by those on each side.  IMHO, these folks are unsung heroes.  And we have lost one of the best.

3 thoughts on “John Freemuth, Boise State professor and expert on public lands policy, has died at 69”

  1. Hey Sharon, John was my go-to policy wonk also. We were in graduate seminar together at Colorado State University; he was getting his PhD and I was getting an MA in environmental politics. When I worked for the FS in the Intermountain Region, we often utilized his help as a speaker or consultant on natural resources policy issues. He was a very level, balanced guy, saw the big picture. Appropriate that he was on board for Andrus Center, as Cecil Andrus was a similar, level conservation-oriented centrist. This is really a shock to lose him. He will be missed. Did I miss the overall article somehow; did it mention cause of death?

  2. After starting a graduate program at age 60, I was fortunate to have been one Dr. Freemuth’s students. He will be missed.


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