2023 Wildfire Season coverage guide: data, resources and interview opportunities

Media Contacts

Photo by Cameron Strandberg from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada | CC-BY-2.0

DENVER — Health officials are warning people all over North America to stay inside as smoke from more than 400 Canadian wildfires has wafted south and smothered much of the United States.

It’s an ominous beginning to wildfire season. As we near the onset of summer and temperatures rise across the United States, experts predict wildfires will pose a threat for several parts of the country. According to the June wildfire outlook from the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center, several swaths of the northern U.S. — eastern Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the northern part of the Great Lakes region, and northern New York and New England — all face “above normal” potential for significant wildland fires in the coming months. In addition, many wildfire-prone regions are expected to experience “normal” seasons — and given recent history, “normal” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.”

The Public Interest Network (which includes PIRGEnvironment America and state groups in often-impacted Western and Southwestern states including AlaskaArizonaCaliforniaColoradoOregonTexas and Washington) is sharing information to help contextualize the major environmental, health and consumer concerns posed by the wildfires that will inevitably come this summer.

Information on wildfires:

The following experts are available to interview either over the phone or on camera:
National experts:

Steve Blackledgesblackledge@environmentamerica.org, is the senior director of Environment America’s conservation program. He led our successful national campaign to win full, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Program through the Great American Outdoors Act. Steve’s team works to protect our lands and waters — from the Tongass National Forest in Alaska to the Florida Keys. They advocate for the wildlife with which we share our planet, including gray wolves, sage grouse and more. Steve has appeared on and in a wide variety of media outlets, including on CBS This Morning. He lives in Sacramento.

Tony Dutzik[email protected], is associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group, a public policy think tank, where he has authored dozens of reports on a wide array of topics, including climate change. A former journalist, Tony’s research and ideas on climate, energy and transportation policy have helped shape public policy debates across the United States and have earned coverage in outlets from National Public Radio to The New York Times and the Financial Times.

Ellen Montgomeryemontgomery@environmentamerica.org, is the director of Environment America’s public lands campaigns, working to protect America’s beautiful places, from local beachfronts to remote mountain peaks. Prior to her current role, Ellen worked as the organizing director for Environment America’s Climate Defenders campaign. Ellen lives in Denver.

Teresa Murray[email protected] is director of PIRG’s Consumer Watchdog program. She has written or overseen reports and analyses on topics including price gouging during emergencies, toxic consumer products and scams. She’s passionate about educating people about predatory tactics they may face when they’re vulnerable. Prior to joining PIRG in 2020, Teresa worked as a business journalist and consumer columnist for more than 20 years for Ohio’s largest daily newspaper. Her work with PIRG has been featured by outlets including CNN, NPR, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Teresa lives in Cleveland.

Johanna Neumannjohanna@environmentamerica.org, is the senior director of Environment America’s Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy. Johanna oversees our work to set ambitious clean energy goals at the state and national level and make sure Americans understand the benefits that renewable sources of energy, especially solar and wind, bring to our communities vs. the dangers of fossil fuels and nuclear power. Johanna has been quoted in major publications including the Washington PostThe Hill and CNN. Last summer, she appeared in an NBC News package about solar power and battery storage keeping the lights on during natural disasters. Johanna lives in Western Massachusetts.

For help in specific Western and Southwestern states:
Alaska
Dyani Chapman[email protected], is Alaska Environment Action’s state director. In the last 6 years, she’s directed door to door canvass offices and worked with citizen outreach offices and efforts throughout the western United States on a variety of environmental issues from reducing the use of single use plastics to passing legislation to ensure a state reaches 100% renewable energy. Dyani lives in Anchorage.
Arizona
Diane E. Brown[email protected], is Arizona PIRG’s executive director. Diane has worked with the State PIRGs for more than 35 years, including nearly 20 in her current role. She is a leader in protecting consumers from unfair marketplace abuses and unsafe products; fostering accessible, accountable government; and promoting 2st century energy and transportation options. Diane frequently works with diverse entities; advocates and testifies before elected and governmental officials; and appears on broadcast and in print media across the state. Diane has helped secure public interest victories at the Arizona Legislature, the Arizona Corporation Commission and various state agencies. She lives in the Phoenix area.
California

Laura Deehanldeehan@environmentcalifornia.org, is Environment California’s state director. She stepped into the state director role in January 2021 after about 20 years on staff. Laura has led campaigns to make sure California goes big on offshore wind, to save solar and to get lead out of school drinking water. Laura has appeared in and on a wide array of California and national media, especially during last October’s massive oil spill off the Southern California coast, when the New York TimesUSA Today, NBC News and NPR, among others, quoted her. Laura lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jenn Engstrom, [email protected], is CALPIRG’s state director. She is a leading voice in Sacramento and across the state on protecting public health, consumer protections and defending our democracy. Before moving into her current role, Jenn led CALPIRG’s organizing team for years and managed our citizen outreach offices across the state, running campaigns to ban single-use plastic bags, stop the overuse of antibiotics and promote 100% renewable energy. Jenn lives in Los Angeles.
Colorado

Danny Katz[email protected], is the executive director of CoPIRG. Danny co-authored a groundbreaking report on the state’s transit, walking and biking needs and is a co-author of the annual “State of Recycling” report. He serves on several Colorado state and Denver regional transportation committees. With his expertise, Danny lobbies federal, state and local elected officials on transportation electrification, multimodal transportation, zero waste, consumer protection and public health issues. He appears frequently in local media outlets and is active in a number of coalitions. Danny lives in Denver.

Oregon

Charlie Fisher[email protected], is OSPIRG’s (Oregon State PIRG) state director. Charlie directs OSPIRG’s campaigns to rein in the cost of health care, get big money out of politics and stand up for consumers. In a previous role with Environment Oregon, Charlie was part of successful efforts to increase Oregon’s clean energy commitments and get the state off coal. Charlie’s work has earned coverage in the Oregonian and other local and regional news outlets. Charlie lives in Portland.

Celeste Meiffren-Swango[email protected] is the director of Environment Oregon. She has worked on issues ranging from preventing plastic pollution, stopping global warming, defending clean water, and protecting our beautiful places. Celeste’s organizing has helped to reduce kids’ exposure to lead in drinking water at childcare facilities in Oregon, encourage transportation electrification, ban single-use plastic grocery bags, defend our bedrock environmental laws and more. She is also the author of the children’s book, Myrtle the Turtle, which empowers kids to prevent plastic pollution. Celeste lives in Portland.

Texas
Luke Metzger[email protected], is the executive director of Environment Texas. He has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell, Chevron Phillips and Petrobras to cut air pollution at Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost state funding for water conservation and parks.  In Spring 2022, Luke was a featured expert on three panels/tours at the Society of Environmental Journalists’ annual conference. He has extensive on-air experience, including appearances on CNN, MSNBC and NPR. He’s also been quoted widely by publications including the GuardianWashington PostWall Street Journal and New York Times. Luke lives in Austin.
Washington
Pam Cloughpclough@environmentwashington.org, is an advocate with Environment Washington. She has spent the last 8 years supporting a variety of public interest campaigns across the U.S., from restoring clean water act protections through the Waters of the United States rule, to the passage of Washington’s 2021 plastic reduction act, which includes the country’s strongest ban on polystyrene foam. Pam lives in Steilacoom, Washington.
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