PLACES WE PROTECT
The beginning of 2021 was a challenging time for Alaska Wilderness League. Still working under the strain of a pandemic and just six days into the new year we saw not only the first ever lease sale in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but also an insurgence on the Capitol, blocks away from the League’s office headquarters. That day was followed a few short months later by the tragic passing of our executive director, Adam Kolton. But it was Adam’s inspirational legacy that saw Alaska Wilderness League through this difficult time, and that motivated our continued fight for success in our work to protect Alaska’s public lands and waters.
President Biden’s First Day: To be clear, the beginning of 2021 was by no means all bad. On January 20, President Biden was sworn into office, embracing a commitment to the environment that included a promise to act aggressively on climate change and to protect public lands. Starting on Inauguration Day, Alaska Wilderness League saw several immediate wins for our work that opened the door to both overturning many bad decisions made under the previous administration and securing protective protections for Alaska lands and waters:
We are deeply grateful for the generosity of our members that made this work possible.
Read on for details related to specific campaigns.
TONGASS NATIONAL FOREST
The President also directed his Day One attention to America’s largest national forest, the Tongass, where he committed to reviewing the Tongass Roadless Rule exemption with the goal of assessing whether that decision is aligned with the administration’s stated climate, public health and community health goals. Following up on that commitment, last summer President Biden announced a three-part strategy for the Tongass, including restoration of full Roadless Rule protections, an end to old-growth logging, and increased investment into sustainable solutions for Southeast Alaska’s economy (the “Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy” or SASS). This not only put us on track for a full restoration of the Roadless Rule in Alaska, but it also included an immediate phase out of old-growth logging with very limited exceptions across the forest, a new commitment to Tribal consultation, and a $25-million investment in alternative economic development for the region. In 2021, we also encouraged enthusiasm for the Tongass in three Geography of Hope episodes: A Tongass Odyssey — Seeing the Forest Ecosystem Through the Politics of Trees; The Salmon Way — An Alaska State of Mind with Amy Gulick; and A Shape in the Dark: Living and Dying with Brown Bears.
Photo credit: Daniel Dietrich Photography, www.danieldietrichphotography.com
NATIONAL PETROLEUM RESERVE-ALASKA
On President Biden’s first day in office, he took initial action to suspend oil and gas leasing on public lands, including the Reserve, and committed to reviewing the massive Willow oil and gas development plan in the Reserve. That action was followed by an Executive Order in late January which extended the leasing pause, and there have been no lease sales held in the Reserve since. In summer of 2021, together with a group of conservation plaintiffs, we won a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Willow project and later submitted more than 11,000 messages urging Biden to walk away from Willow. All of these efforts sent the environmental permitting process back to the drawing board, and today we continue to fight this risky project by highlighting its dangerous climate and biodiversity threats.
Photo credit: Kiliii Yuyan
Photo credit: Dave Shreffler
Photo credit: Alaska Wilderness League
You've helped us so much on this journey, now help us forge the path ahead
As efforts to protect wild landscapes across Alaska including the Arctic Refuge, Alaska’s western Arctic, Bristol Bay, the Tongass National Forest and Izembek National Wildlife Refuge continue to gain momentum, the power of public input is critical to help us achieve our goals. Read below to learn how you can be ready to submit more public comments and letters-to-the-editor, join virtual district meetings, and participate in Geography of Hope sessions that highlight special areas across Alaska.
Join Us for Geography of Hope
Enjoy our fall, winter and spring collection of virtual events and experiences connecting you to writers, experts, filmmakers and other wild Alaska advocates in a celebration of the lands, waters, wildlife and cultures we all care so deeply about. You can find our complete Geography of Hope playlist on our website or on YouTube, and don't forget to subscribe to our channel while you're there!
Our typically once-a-month events lift your spirits, mentally transport you to the temperate forests and tundra and majestic points in between, and seek to inspire and connect you to others who share a passion for our nation's wildest places – providing fresh energy in the fight for protection.
Former President Jimmy Carter,
The Honorable Robert Mrazek,
President of the Board
Vice President of the Board
Debbie S. Miller
Jody Juneby Potts
*Board listing as of June 2022.
In 2021 we welcomed to the team Maddie Halloran as our manager of Alaska campaigns and Priya Uppuluri as our new legislative associate. After a long search, the League also welcomed Dr. Peter Winsor as its new executive director. The team continues to grow in 2022 with the additions of Ashley Davis as our climate and justice partnerships organizer, Aileo Weinmann as our communications director and Marley Hatfield as our development associate.
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.
Alaska Wilderness League had a strong year of progress in 2021 on the work we are doing to become the organization we envision – one that is more inclusive and committed to justice and lives up to our commitment to be an example for the conservation and environmental community. In 2021 this has been done through multiple actions supporting our Indigenous partners, continued staff training and uplifting partners’ voices and events.
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.
This is a journey and although we’ve made progress along this path, we do know that there is much more that needs to be done – we are committed to continuing to prioritize the work of becoming better allies.
Photo credit: Lincoln Else
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
Giving big for big landscapes helps protect Alaska’s wildest places.
Alaska Wilderness League is an independent 501(c)(3) organization (EIN: 52-1814742).