Skip to main content

John Freemuth Student Congress

John Freemuth2024

The Andrus Center for Public Policy, Public Lands Foundation, and National Association of Forest Service Retirees are partnering to host the 2024 John Freemuth Student Congress October 7 – 10, 2024, in Las Vegas, NV. The 2024 Student Congress will focus on public lands policy issues associated with the transition to renewable energy. Select college and university students from across the country will examine renewable energy development on public land through field work and policy discussions, culminating in a student-authored report that will be presented to the heads of Federal land management agencies, in Washington, DC. Students will explore issues such as: climate change as the catalyst for change, the drive to decarbonize, and public lands trends in energy production and transmission. 

The goals of this program are to:

  1. Educate our youth on the history and current issues related to public land management;
  2. Engage students in providing input into the future of these lands; and
  3. Expand potential career consideration and enrich student resumes.

Starting in 2012, Student Congress events were hosted by the Public Lands Foundation (PLF), a national membership organization that advocates and works to keep public lands in public hands. In 2022, the student congress was hosted through a partnership with the Andrus Center for Public Policy, the Public Lands Foundation, and National Association of Forest Service Retirees. This partnership provided Boise State University and the Andrus Center the opportunity to recognize the life and legacy of John Freemuth, University Distinguished Professor and Cecil D. Andrus Endowed Chair of the Environment and Public Lands at Boise State University. John was a central figure in the previous four congresses and his passing in May of 2020 left a tremendous void. 

At this 2022’s event, we renamed the Student Congress the “John Freemuth Public Lands Student Congress” and transition its organization to the Andrus Center in order to facilitate regular support, coordinated logistics, a permanent repository of institutional memory, and legacy support.

Program Funding

Students had no out of pocket expenses when selected to participate. Expenses are covered by the generosity of donors, grant funding, and facilitating partners. It costs roughly $2,500 per student to host a Student Congress and involves a large group of volunteers and constituents to facilitate. All costs are direct costs of goods and services and speakers are paid a modest honorarium (usually $500). No hosting partner retains any funds to pay organizing members to facilitate the Student Congress. 


The fifth Student Congress was held in Boise, Idaho on October 3-6, 2022

Field study, October 4th, 2022. John Freemuth Student Congress


To view the student authored report and findings, please visit the Public Lands Foundation

page.  The 2024 Student Congress topic and location will be announced in Fall 2023. 

As with previous congresses, this event featured expert presentations, panel discussions, and field trips that resulted in student-led recommendations for future public land management. During the 2022 event, select college and university students from across the country examined western fire management through field work and policy discussions, culminating in a student authored report that was presented in Washington DC February 2023. 

The 20-25 students were selected meet for four days along with four or five advisors who have had long careers in public policy and land management. They discussed current issues and potential solutions and made recommendations relative to what they believed to be important considerations for future policy making. The first day of the Student Congress included an opening reception with policy makers and event organizers. The second day of the event included a field trip and a tour of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, ID. Students met in small groups with policy makers to discuss pre-Student Congress reading material and assignments. They then convened as a forum, where they developed responses to specific questions on the future of public land management, and ultimately produce recommendations that could impact future land management.