It feels cliché to say at this point how much the way we do our work shifted for nearly all of 2020. Nonetheless, Alaska Wilderness League found ways to move the needle on our issues by thinking creatively about how we advocate in the middle of a global pandemic. 2020 also brought a pivotal election and the promise of a change in administration with the election of President Joe Biden. The Trump administration spent four years attempting to roll back environmental protections for public lands and waters in Alaska, but with the support of our members, we were able to hold the line and achieve many great things together.
We are deeply grateful for the generosity of our members that made this work possible.
Read on for details related to specific campaigns.
No new lease sales were held for the Arctic Ocean and our litigation efforts retained important protections for 125 million acres of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and kept the five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing finalized by the Obama administration in place. Additionally, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation relinquished its leases in the Beaufort Sea — some of the last remaining leases held in the Arctic Ocean.
Photo Credit: Mladen Mates
TONGASS NATIONAL FOREST
We successfully stopped any new old-growth timber sales and blocked in court a proposed sale on Prince of Wales Island that would have been the largest sale in the Tongass in decades. Unfortunately, the Trump administration was able to remove key protections for the Tongass by exempting it from the federal Roadless Rule, however, we have petitioned the Biden administration to reinstate Roadless protections, and the administration has already announced its intent to address the issue by repealing or replacing the Alaska Roadless Rule finalized at the end of the previous administration.
Photo Credit: Amy Gulick
NATIONAL PETROLEUM RESERVE-ALASKA
A new management plan was finalized that removed millions of acres of Special Area protections in the Reserve. However, we successfully slowed the planning process enough that the Trump administration was not able to complete a lease sale while in office. We are currently challenging the new management plan — as well as the proposed Willow oil development project — in the courts.
Photo Credit: Patrick Endres
CHUGACH NATIONAL FOREST
We successfully campaigned to have the Chugach excluded from the Roadless Rule exemption process.
Photo Credit: Erin McKittrick
IZEMBEK NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
We won an important lawsuit thwarting plans to allow a road through the heart of the Izembek Refuge that would have permanently impacted migratory bird populations not to mention brown bears, salmon, walrus and foxes.
Photo Credit: Lisa Matlock
WINS FOR WILDLIFE
Elevated the Arctic Refuge during the 2020 presidential election, resulting in:
• Then-candidate Biden making a strong public statement on the Arctic Refuge
• Protections for Arctic Refuge included in Democratic National Committee platform
Alaska Wilderness League is committed to providing a community for our members and supporters and empowering all people to advocate for protection of Alaska’s public lands. 2020 was a year of transition for all of us, and the League was forced into new thinking around what building community could look like. We moved into an online world, hosting a multitude of virtual events, presentations and congressional office meetings.
Our Geography of Hope series, virtual lobby days, and work with diverse partners from all around the U.S. demonstrated and amplified significant public support for Alaska’s public lands in this very critical time. And we will continue to find new and innovative ways that allow us to hold the line, push back against any attempts to defile Alaska’s public lands and waters, and enable our members and supporters like you to make a difference. A few highlights of our 2020 achievements:
Once covid hit, gatherings like this were off-limits and we needed to redefine "outreach."
COMMUNITY ACTION DURING THE PANDEMIC
Thanks to you, Alaska Wilderness League grew the ranks of advocates for wild Alaska in 2020 — 82,000 online actions were taken and more than 2,800 people used our new online advocacy toolkit. In addition, many of you took important momentum-building actions in your own communities through attending virtual district office meetings, writing a letter-to-the editor or opinion piece for your local papers, hosting video house parties, making phone calls to your members of Congress, or creating your own video messages to Congress. Amid a global pandemic, we were inspired to see the many new and innovative ways you found to reach elected leaders by putting your face and powerful words together!
ART AND ADVOCACY
Just before office closures and travel restrictions were put in place, Alaska Wilderness League and Soul River Inc. joined forces to bring a multimedia photo exhibit on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to life. The presentation, “Vashraii K’oo: An Arctic Refuge Experience,” featured 30 larger than life photos celebrating the Gwich’in, their culture and their efforts to protect their traditional lifestyle and the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. Hundreds of people attended the shows in Portland, OR and Los Angeles to enjoy the amazing artwork and hear firsthand from our Gwich’in partners.
VIRTUAL LOBBY DAY
How do you get a personal connection between constituents and members of Congress during a pandemic? Hold a “virtual lobby day!” This just what we did for the Tongass National Forest, as more than 60 Alaska Wilderness League members signed up to participate in 15 lobby meetings — all held virtually — with congressional members from across the country. Our supporters advocated for the Roadless Area Conservation Act (RACA), legislation that will codify roadless protections for the Tongass, protecting vast swaths of old-growth areas and the lives that depend on them.
Photo credit: Steven Kazlowski
ALASKA WILDERNESS LEAGUE ONLINE AND IN THE MEDIA
Our communications work serves to elevate the profile and brand of the organization through educating and inspiring people to protect wild Alaska, while also supporting and elevating the voices of our national and Alaska-based partners. In 2020, this effort focused on outreach to national and local media; results-oriented communications to our membership; showing strong leadership within our coalitions; and focusing on efficient but powerful use of social media. Across all League communications, we seek to demonstrate the value of our public lands and waters in Alaska and highlight how not only our members, but also thought leaders, elected officials and the broader American public can help keep them wild.
As a result of this work, Alaska Wilderness League was cited in national outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, The National Journal, The Guardian, national wire services The Associated Press and Reuters, as well as news media throughout Alaska. Beyond print, the League appeared across television and radio including PBS NewsHour and The Today Show, Alaska Public Media, as well as BBC Radio and The Times Radio UK. In addition, podcasts became a new avenue to reach fresh audiences, and League staff appeared on a variety of pods including Our Daily Planet, For the Revolution, Stand Up! with Pete Dominick, This American Land and Great.com Talks With…
In addition to the above achievements, the League continued to grow our Wild Alaska Blog, posting more content than ever before, and featuring not only League voices but an assortment of guest voices including Teddy Roosevelt IV, Rep. Jared Huffman of California, author Michael Hodgson, and Pat Pourchot, the League’s board president and the former Special Assistant for Alaska Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior.
To increase our capacity to support our members and activists, in 2019 we launched an online Activist Resources Toolkit and in 2020, more than 2,800 people took advantage of its online resources that provide all the tools and information needed to amplify community voices and build support in communities across the country. Finally, more than 64,000 people now follow the League on social media through our channels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
IT'S YOUR TURN
Former President Jimmy Carter, Honorary Co-Chair
The Honorable Robert Mrazek, Honorary Co-Chair
Tom Campion, Chair Emeritus
Pat Pourchot, President of the Board
Brian O’Donnell, Vice President of the Board
Betsy Loyless, Treasurer
Jody Juneby Potts, Secretary
Debbie S. Miller
*Board listing as of May 2021.
OUR COMMITMENT TO JUSTICE, EQUITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
At Alaska Wilderness League, we work to keep Alaska’s wildest places protected now and for generations to come. We recognize that threats to the environment have disproportionate effects on marginalized communities, and until the conservation movement is more just, equitable and inclusive of all people, we cannot truly secure a safer, healthier and more sustainable environment for future generations. We recognize the need to expand our understanding of the systems of power and oppression at play in today’s world.
A commitment to centering our work in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) is critical to our mission and effectiveness. It is imperative to building and maintaining transformational relationships with our partners, broadening our base of support and making our organization an even better home for its employees.
Throughout 2020, we moved through the process of creating a three-year JEDI Strategic Plan for formal adoption in 2021. The plan includes specific and concrete areas for our board and staff teams to focus on including programmatic, cultural, communications and hiring.
Our commitment to JEDI includes a focus on confronting our own biases and privileges — both organizational and personal — and actively working to dismantle them. One of the opportunities is to better align Alaska conservation with the cause of Indigenous rights and social justice. Indeed, many of our Indigenous partners and allies are among the most compelling and important leaders in the fight to transition away from fossil fuels, for respecting the land and for traditional Native knowledge and expertise.
So, what is JEDI? A helpful breakdown from The Avarna Group:
Justice: Dismantling barriers to resources and opportunities in society so that all individuals and communities can live a full and dignified life. These barriers are essentially the “isms” in society such as racism, classism and sexism.
Equity: Allocating resources to ensure everyone has access to the same resources and opportunities. Equity recognizes that advantages and barriers — the ‘isms’ — exist. Equity is the approach and equality is the outcome.
Diversity: The differences between us based on whether we experience systemic advantages or encounter systemic barriers to opportunities.
Inclusion: Fostering a sense of belonging by centering, valuing and amplifying the voices, perspectives and styles of those who experience more barriers based on their identities.
This commitment to justice is inseparable from a commitment to developing more meaningful allyship with a diversity of partners and the communities most impacted by our work. It is a promise to listen, learn and grow. It is a promise to stand for, support and speak up for the broader causes of justice and equality. Continually expanding our awareness of systems of power and oppression will help us reimagine conservation as a tool for justice and advocate for Alaska’s public lands with a heightened focus on the intersectionality of climate change and human rights.
We have started on this path and have a long journey ahead of us. While acknowledging and dismantling systemic oppression and injustice can be a long and sometimes uncomfortable journey, we will continue to dedicate the resources and energy needed to bring about true transformation.
Photo Credit: Kristen Zinke
The Campion Foundation
The Conservation Alliance
Hugh & Jane Ferguson Foundation
True North Foundation
The Volgenau Foundation
The North Face
The Alaska Wilderness League Leadership Council is a group of Alaska lands advocates who meet as thought leaders to advise and assist in the planning and execution of League goals. For more information including how to get involved in the Council, please contact Chris@AlaskaWild.org.
Marta Chase • Ken Fabert • Bruce Gitlin • Dan Johnson • Cory Jones • Susan Lubetkin • William Meadows • Drs. Joan and Sherman Silber and Steve Silber • Judy and Jim Wagonfeld • Erin Younger
for all you've done to keep Alaska wild. Your tax-deductible support makes our work possible.
Alaska Wilderness League is an independent 501(c)(3) organization (EIN: 52-1814742).