2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
Brandon Loomis, Rick Egan & David Noyce Winner: Brandon Loomis, Rick Egan & David Noyce “Our Dying Forests” The Salt Lake Tribune James Astill Winner: James Astill “Seeing the Wood” The Economist Alanna Mitchell Winner: Alanna Mitchell “Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis” McClelland & Stewart (Canada) and The University of Chicago Press (U.S.A.) Blake Morrison and Brad Heath Winner: Blake Morrison & Brad Heath “The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America’s Schools” USA Today David Barboza, Keith Bradsher, Howard French, Joseph Kahn, Mark Landler, Chang W. Lee, Jimmy Wang, and Jim Yardley Winner: David Barboza, Keith Bradsher, Howard French, Joseph Kahn, Mark Landler, Chang W. Lee, Jimmy Wang, and Jim Yardley “Choking on Growth” The New York Times Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling Winner: Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling “Altered Oceans” The Los Angeles Times Jan Barry, Thomas E. Franklin, Mary Jo Layton, Tim Nostrand, Alex Nussbaum, Tom Troncone, Debra Lynn Vial, Lindy Washburn, Barbara Williams Winner: Jan Barry, Thomas E. Franklin, Mary Jo Layton, Tim Nostrand, Alex Nussbaum, Tom Troncone, Debra Lynn Vial, Lindy Washburn, Barbara Williams “Toxic Legacy” The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
Paul Greenberg Awards of Special Merit: Paul Greenberg “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food” Penguin Press Jeff Goodell Awards of Special Merit: Jeff Goodell “How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth’s Climate” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Dan Egan Awards of Special Merit: Dan Egan Environmental Beat Reporting Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Tad Fettig, Karena Albers, & Veronique Bernard Awards of Special Merit: Tad Fettig, Karena Albers, & Veronique Bernard “e2: transport” kontentreal Dinah Voyles Pulver Awards of Special Merit: Dinah Voyles Pulver “Our Natural Treasures – Are We Losing Our Way?” Daytona Beach News Journal Eugene Linden Awards of Special Merit: Eugene Linden “The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations” Simon & Schuster Douglas Fischer Awards of Special Merit: Douglas Fischer “A Body’s Burden: Our Chemical Legacy” Oakland Tribune
UNC News 21 Team Awards of Special Merit: Caitlyn Greene, Catherine Orr, Catherine Spangler, Delphine Andrews, Hadley Gustafson, Hely Olivares, Jeffrey Mittelstadt, Kristen Long, Mimi Schiffman, Sarah Riazati, Whitney Baker, and Laura Ruel Coal: A Love Story News21 Fellows, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Journalism and Mass Communication Associated Press Awards of Special Merit: Richard T. Pienciak, Ron Harris, Justin Pritchard, Jeff Donn, Mitch Weiss, Michael Kunzelman, Seth Borenstein, Rich Matthews, Jason Bronis, Tamara Lush, Mike Baker, Holbrook Mohr, Dave Clark, Fielding Cage, Merrill Sherman, Peter Prengaman, and Cain Burdeau Oil Spill Reporting Associated Press Cleo Paskal Awards of Special Merit: Cleo Paskal “Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map” Key Porter Books (Canada) and Palgrave Macmillan (U.S.A.) Andrew Nikiforuk Awards of Special Merit: Andrew Nikiforuk “Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent” Greystone Books Alison Richards and David Malakoff Awards of Special Merit: Alison Richards and David Malakoff “Climate Connections: How people change climate, how climate changes people” National Public Radio East Oregonian Publishing Company Awards of Special Merit: Patrick Webb, The Daily Astorian; Phil Wright, Hal McCune and Samantha Bates, The East Oregonian; Kate Ramsayer, Cassandra Profita and Kara Hansen, The Daily Astorian; Elaine Shein, Tam Moore, Cookson Beecher, Bob Krauter, Mitch Lies, Patricia McCoy and Scott Yates, The Capital Press; Elizabeth Long and Cate Gable, The Chinook Observer, Scott Mallory, The Blue Mountain Eagle; Dave Hassler and Andrew Wilkins, The Wallowa Chieftain “Our Climate is Changing… Ready or Not” East Oregonian Publishing Company Elizabeth Kolbert Awards of Special Merit: Elizabeth Kolbert “The Climate of Man” The New Yorker
Gary Marcuse, Betsy Carson, & Shi Lihong Awards of Special Merit: Gary Marcuse, Betsy Carson, & Shi Lihong Waking the Green Tiger: A Green Movement Rises in China Face to Face Media Hedrick Smith, Rick Young, Marc Shaffer, Peter Pearce,
    Penny Trams, Catherine Rentz, Fritz Kramer Awards of Special Merit: Hedrick Smith, Rick Young, Marc Shaffer, Peter Pearce, Penny Trams, Catherine Rentz, Fritz Kramer “Poisoned Waters” Hedrick Smith Productions for PBS Frontline Susanne Rust & Meg Kissinger Awards of Special Merit: Susanne Rust & Meg Kissinger “Chemical Fallout” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Ed Struzik Awards of Special Merit: Ed Struzik “The Big Thaw – Arctic in Peril” The Edmonton Journal and the Toronto Star Dimming the Sun Awards of Special Merit: A DOX production for NOVA/WGBH and the BBC “Dimming the Sun: What Does This Climate Conundrum Mean for the Future of Earth?” NOVA/WGBH and the BBC WBAL Channel 11 Awards of Special Merit: John Sherman and Beau Kershaw “Dirty Secret” WBAL-TV, Baltimore, MD

2012 Grantham Prize Winner

Brandon Loomis, Rick Egan & David Noyce

Our Dying Forests

The Salt Lake Tribune

Brandon Loomis, Sheldon Whitehouse, Sunshine Mendez

Brandom Loomis (center) accepts The Grantham Prize from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Leadership Awards Dinner

Reporter Brandon Loomis, photographer Rick Egan and editor David Noyce received the US$75,000 Grantham Prize for this “measured” and “exhaustive” series about the causes of the decline of ancient conifer forests stretching from New Mexico northward to the Canadian border.

“Part of foresters’ diagnosis [of forest health],” Loomis writes, “reflects a cold reckoning of facts known for a generation: A century of Smokey Bear fire suppression and decades of timber-industry decline primed thick forests for giant blazes and for drought stress, which invites tree-killing insects. The other part is new: Warming winters and longer growing seasons have ignited a 14-year beetle explosion like none ever documented.”

In the Rocky Mountain West, the forests that define the high country and, in large measure, the region’s geographic identity have been under siege for more than a decade- by a natural cycle made significantly more severe by climate change. In exploring the science and human response to a phenomenon that is plainly visible to even the casual observer, The Salt Lake Tribune found that the forests Westerners have known and loved in recent generations are unlikely to look the same for generations, if ever again.

Forest Map: Bark beetles are ravaging forests in Utah and the West

The team, led by the thorough reporting of Brandon Loomis and the stunning photography of Rick Egan, also detailed important policy and spending questions that play a pivotal role in mitigating the risk to city watersheds, popular recreation zones and endangered species. Loomis, Egan, and Noyce found that landscape-wide management is needed to slow the spread of bark beetles responsible for the widespread forest destruction. But even as these beetles spread in response to warming temperatures, the necessary management efforts are deemed fiscally impossible in a time of stagnant and shrinking government budgets. Nonetheless, the team argued that partnerships will be essential to manage these pests, but they must begin immediately.

While taking a regional approach to this issue, The Salt Lake Tribune also focused several stories narrowly on one imperiled species that may dictate terms of land use in the future for one of the region’s most iconic and loved places: Yellowstone. The whitebark pine’s demise threatens grizzly bears, and in turn, human activities that may be restricted to save the bears, the trees, or both. Their stories examine the interrelationships of those species and the people who live among them, and the science and constraints of significant but costly efforts to save a tree for which climate change is only the latest in a series of threats.

The Salt Lake Tribune  has done what few newsrooms have been able to do: tell the story of the unexpected, yet devastating, effects of climate change at  local and regional levels while combining science, policy, and a compelling narrative. In the process, “Our Dying Forests” serves as a model for other medium-sized news outlets, and has earned Loomis, Egan, and Noyce the world’s richest journalism prize for their hard work.

Read the special report in The Salt Lake Tribune.


Grantham Prize Jury Comments on Our Dying Forests

As a student of the environment since his boyhood days in Alaska, and as a practitioner of environmental journalism since his graduation from the University of Nebraska, Brandon Loomis sensed that the Rocky Mountain West was in the grip of an ecological transformation of epic proportions. With the blessing of his editors at the Salt Lake Tribune, he set out to document it, explain it, and – to the extent possible – assess its consequences.

What he found was astonishing: the wholesale (and still accelerating) decline of ancient conifer forests stretching from New Mexico northward to the Canadian border; 40 million acres of white bark pine, spruce and aspen gone or going, victims of years of forest mismanagement as well as natural cycles made significantly more severe by drought, warmer winters and other factors related to climate change.

In measured tones, Loomis set forth the possible consequences:  dwindling water supplies for western cities that depend on high-elevation forests for their drinking water; decreasing populations of species like cutthroat trout and grizzly bears, who depend on the white bark pine for much of their food supply; more and bigger wildfires.

This eight-part series required exhaustive shoe-leather – in this case, boot-leather — reporting that took Loomis beyond Utah to Colorado, Yellowstone, and Montana’s Bitterroot Forest, and involved countless interviews with foresters, academics, and concerned political leaders to document a population explosion of pernicious beetles due to rising temperatures. These beetles have consumed countless trees, setting the state for grim consequences. Rick Egan’s dramatic photography added impact to the series, as did the accompanying video presentations on the paper’s website.

In this and other ways, Loomis brought the effects of climate change to a regional, more easily-understood level – a fine example to other medium-sized papers seeking ways to make daunting scientific issues more accessible to their readers.

Experts have long been aware of the dangers implicit in the wholesale disappearance of ancient forests. Brandon Loomis’ reporting has now alerted a wider public.


About the Team

Brandon Loomis

Brandon Loomis

Brandon Loomis

Brandon Loomis is public lands reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune. He has twice reported for the Tribune, 1998-2001 and 2007-present. Previously, he reported for the Anchorage Daily News, The Associated Press in Chicago, the Idaho Falls Post Register and the Jackson Hole Guide. Loomis was also a city editor at the Juneau Empire. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Journalism and was a 1993-94 Ted Scripps Graduate Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Michigan. He grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska, where he worked summers in fish-processing plants and a pulp mill.

Loomis envisioned the stories for “Our Dying Forests” and scouted locations to explore various aspects of the climate-bark beetle connection, then spent most of his summer and fall traveling the Rockies to execute them.

Rick Egan

Rick Egan

Rick Egan

Rick Egan has been a staff photographer at The Salt Lake Tribune for 27 years. His love for photography started in seventh grade, when he used money from his paper route to construct a darkroom in his basement. He attended Snow College and Brigham Young University, where he studied photography and journalism. His first job out of college was at the Sun Advocate in Price, Utah, where he worked for a year before joining the Tribune. He has photographed assignments in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. He grew up in Provo, Utah. Egan photographed the bulk of “Our Dying Forests,” learning about beetles as well as high-elevation forests, and bringing them to life for readers.

David Noyce

David Noyce

David Noyce

David Noyce is a news editor at The Salt Lake Tribune, where he has worked for 28 years. He has overseen stories on every subject ranging from artifacts to the zoo. He currently shepherds coverage of local government, politics, public lands, wildlife, the environment and religion. Brandon Loomis’ “Our Dying Forests” ranks among the best work he has ever seen or been associated with. Noyce graduated from the University of Utah and lives and dies — mostly dies — with the fortunes of the Chicago Cubs.  He grew up in Salt Lake City. Noyce helped plan and guide the series, and edited it in its entirety.