Former President Jimmy Carter, Honorary Co-Chair
Former President Jimmy Carter, Honorary Co-Chair, is one of the true heroes of Alaska’s environment. In 1980, he signed the historic Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act which protected millions of acres in Alaska as wilderness and expanded the boundaries of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is a testament to his continued commitment to protecting the Arctic Refuge that President Carter has agreed to serve as the honorary chairman of the Alaska Wilderness League board.
The Honorable Robert Mrazek, Honorary Co-Chair
The Honorable Robert Mrazek, Honorary Co-Chair, was the founding board chair of Alaska Wilderness League in 1993. While serving in Congress, Mrazek authored the landmark Tongass Timber Reform Act which protected 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2) of old-growth forest in Southeast Alaska, revoked artificially high timber cutting targets and created broad buffers for all salmon and resident fishing streams. Mrazek was also the lead sponsor of legislation that sought to permanently protect the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness. He served in the United States House of Representatives representing New York’s 3rd congressional district on Long Island from 1983 until he retired in 1993.
Tom Campion, Chair Emeritus
Tom Campion, Chair Emeritus, lives in Seattle, Washington, where he is one of the co-founders of Zumiez, a worldwide action sports lifestyle retailer. Tom has been involved with many environmental organizations and was a founding board member of Conservation Northwest. Tom is also an avid outdoorsman and a leading champion to preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which he has traveled to many times.
Pat Pourchot, President of the Board
Pat Pourchot lives in Anchorage, Alaska, and has worked for more than 45 years in Alaska including serving as a senator and representative in the Alaska State Legislature, commissioner of the Alaska State Department of Natural Resources, land manager for the Alaska Federation of Natives, senior policy representative with Audubon Alaska, and most recently Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior for Alaska Affairs under the Obama administration.
Brian O'Donnell, Vice President of the Board
Brian O'Donnell has been a leading land and wildlife conservationist for more than two decades. Brian recently led the Conservation Lands Foundation where he launched a campaign that protected millions of acres of land as National Monuments. Prior to joining CLF, Brian was the national public lands director for Trout Unlimited (TU). In that capacity, he led TU’s efforts to safeguard National Forest Roadless Areas, permanently protecting more than a million acres in the Wyoming Range and Oregon’s Copper-Salmon Wilderness. Brian also worked for The Wilderness Society where he led campaigns resulting in the congressional designation of the Black Rock Desert and Sloan Canyon National Conservation Areas and dozens of new legislated Wilderness areas throughout Nevada. In the early-mid 1990s, Brian served as the executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League. Brian is currently consulting with the Frankfurt Zoological Society (U.S.) on international land and wildlife conservation. Brian earned a B.A. in Economics from Rollins College in 1993. He lives in Durango, Colorado with his wife Melyssa, daughter Kara and dog Oso.
Betsy Loyless, Treasurer
Betsy Loyless was the senior vice president for public policy at the National Audubon Society until 2010. She served as political director for the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, D.C., for more than a decade prior to joining National Audubon. She resides in Bethesda, Maryland.
Jody Juneby Potts, Secretary
Jody Juneby Potts is Han Gwich’in and an enrolled tribal member of the Native Village of Eagle. Jody is a dog mushing guide for Arctic Winter Adventures, snowboard instructor, a traditional Gwich’in tattoo practitioner and a wilderness guide at Arctic Wild. She is a graduate of Northern Arizona University holding a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Indigenous Studies with an emphasis in Environmental Management. Jody was the vice chair of former Governor Walker’s Tribal Advisory Council and served as a board member to the Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and has been an outspoken advocate about the lack of law enforcement and protections for victims of crime in the villages, particularly women and children. Jody is passionate about wellness and safety, but also is an advocate for the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as her Gwich’in elders and leaders have fought for over 30 years. Jody was raised on the land she is Indigenous to and still hunts to provide food for her family. She lives in Fairbanks with her three children, Isaiah, Quannah and Denali, each of which she has taught to hunt on their traditional lands.
Toni Armstrong is a scientist currently residing in St. Louis, Missouri. She fell in love with Alaska on her first trip to the state in 1983, and has been an advocate for Alaska’s wild places ever since. Toni has had the opportunity to canoe or kayak in several areas of Alaska including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, rivers on the south slope of the Brooks Range, Teshekpuk Lake, the Utukok River, Wood Tikchik State Park, Katmai, Icy Bay, Glacier Bay and Kenai Fjords. When she is not traveling in Alaska, you will find her paddling Ozark streams in her canoe. She is active in the local Sierra Club group as trip leader and activist.
Midy Aponte is a senior vice president at Spitfire Strategies, where her portfolio centers on a wide range of public interest issues. Prior to joining Spitfire, Midy served as the founding executive director of the American Latino Heritage Fund of the National Park Foundation, where she collaborated with the Obama administration, the Department of Interior and the National Park Service on several initiatives aimed at preserving American Latino history. She serves on several nonprofit boards including the Alaska Wilderness League and the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado. She is also a member of the GreenLatinos Network and the Diverse Environmental Leaders National Speakers’ Bureau. Midy was born in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City to Cuban immigrants and was raised in Miami. She relocated to Denver in 2014 after a decade in Washington, D.C.
Steve Barker, along wife his wife Nona, founded Eagle Creek Travel Gear in 1975, the first U.S. brand to exclusively focus on outfitting adventure travel, growing from its humble beginnings to become a globally respected brand. Steve stepped down as president of Eagle Creek in 2010 after selling Eagle Creek to VF Corporation and formed Wild Places, a consulting practice focused on entrepreneur mentoring, strategic planning and saving wild places. Steve joined the board of the Alaska Wilderness League in 2010. Steve is an active supporter of the outdoor industry where he served as chairman of the Outdoor Industry Association, interim executive director in 2015 and today serves on the Recreation Advisory Committee. Steve also serves on the board of The Outdoor Foundation, whose mission is to increase long term outdoor recreation participation, and is board chair of the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund, a travel industry group that funds local projects engaged in conservation of unique natural and cultural resources of adventure travel destinations. The Barker’s split their time between Elfin Forest in North San Diego County and Bishop in the Eastern Sierra.
Yvonne Besvold is vice president of finance and treasurer for Patagonia Works, heading up all global financial operations. Yvonne has been at Patagonia for nearly 12 years, and today leads the financial operations for the company, including work on global infrastructure projects, operations and evaluating financial structures to address years of rapid growth. Patagonia is a leader in environmental business practices and is constantly evolving to build the best quality product while having the least impact on the environment. Over the last few years, Yvonne has led a strategy to influence and reposition the company’s financial operations (including banking, insurance and asset management) to institutions sharing the company’s environmental values and mission to reduce climate change and harmful activities. Yvonne splits her time between Ventura and Burbank, California. Her husband, Chris, is recently retired, and they have two grown children. Yvonne likes to ski, hike, explore the world, read, and is learning to fly fish. Yvonne is a PSIA certified ski instructor and spent a few memorable winters as a ski bum back in the day.
Chad Brown is a Navy veteran, an accomplished portrait and adventure photographer, creative director and conservationist. He now resides in Portland, Oregon, where he runs Soul River Inc., the nonprofit organization he founded that brings together at-risk youth with military veterans as mentors and takes them into threatened wild spaces, providing mission-driven experiences where advocacy and outdoor education meet. He later founded Love is King, a nonprofit that focuses on welcome access, safety and healing in the outdoors for BIPOC communities and all underserved voices. His work has brought him to Capitol Hill to advocate for public lands preservation, bringing youth leaders of tomorrow and giving them an opportunity to interface with congressional members. Chad has been featured on BBC, CBS, as well as in national publications including Outside Magazine and The Drake, and in various Pacific Northwest publications. Brown was the first recipient of the Breaking Barriers Award presented by Orvis, as well as the Bending Toward Justice Award from Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.
Kit DesLauriers is a ski mountaineer and the first person in the world to have skied off the top of the Seven Summits, the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. She completed this lofty goal with her October 18, 2006 ski descent from Mount Everest. Beyond the Seven Summits, Kit has made several first ski descents of the highest peaks in the Brooks Range of Alaska and counts the experience of skiing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s pristine landscape as among the favorites in her lifetime. In 2015 Kit was named a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for her merging of science and adventure in the U.S. Arctic. Kit holds two consecutive World Freeskiing Women’s Champion titles and her ski expeditions have also included notable descents on big mountains in New Zealand, Bolivia, the Alps as well as Siberia where she met her husband Rob DesLauriers, himself a former professional skier. Since the year 2000, Kit and Rob have been living in the Teton Range of Wyoming and are now raising their daughters to appreciate adventure and the natural world.
Ellen Ferguson is the community relations director for the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Washington. Ellen has served on a variety of civic and nonprofit boards and been involved in capital fundraising campaigns. She visited the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 2004 and is a dedicated philanthropist in the Pacific Northwest.
Chris Hill was born and raised in the Washington, D.C., area, and earned her B.A. in broadcast communications and electronic media from Appalachian State University and a J.D. from Vermont Law School. With deep roots as a community organizer and environmental policy advocate, she currently serves as the associate campaign director for the Lands, Water, Wildlife Campaign at the Sierra Club. Prior to this role, Chris spent many years as a state and federal environmental lobbyist as Sierra Club’s deputy legislative director and Environmental Working Group’s director of government affairs. She was also the director of government relations and communications for the Maryland Energy Administration in the administration of former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. She currently splits her time between Washington, D.C., and Haines, Alaska, where her partner lives.
Gareth Martins has made the outdoor industry his lifeblood for nearly two decades — as work, as adventure and as leisure. As an industry professional for the past 20 years, he has earned positive kudos for work in brand stewardship, marketing and organizational leadership, public lands advocacy and product sustainability communications, public relations management, and board service for several conservation organizations. He currently leads marketing and communications efforts for Access Fund, dedicated to protecting and conserving climbing areas across the United Sates. Gareth grew up in Golden, Colorado and has spent most of his life living in Colorado. He is the father of two girls, who he is teaching to climb, bike, ski and traipse with joy and wonder through our public lands. He has traveled and adventured in Alaska, Canada, Central and South America, Southeast Asia and the southern Himalayas. He is a recreational climber, enthusiastic mountain biker and peak scrambler, and an avid skier. As a past working musician, he still plays and performs on saxophone and flute for fun.
Debbie S. Miller
Debbie S. Miller is an author and teacher who has lived in Alaska for more than three decades. She has written many books and essays about Alaska’s wilderness, wildlife and indigenous people. Her first book, “Midnight Wilderness,” describes the wonders of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge based on 14 years of wilderness trips through the area, and "On Arctic Ground" provides an in-depth look at the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. As an educator and children’s book author, Ms. Miller travels extensively to schools throughout Alaska and the United States. She is a founding member of Alaska Wilderness League.
Lorraine Netro was born and raised in Old Crow, Yukon, Canada. She was taught the traditional values of the Vuntut Gwitchin by her late mother, Mary Netro. Lorraine has served on a number of boards including the Porcupine Caribou Management Board and the Gwich'in Council International. Lorraine has been committed in protection efforts of the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd since 1999. She is passionate about making a difference in social justice and has traveled to national and international events as a voice for change. She is the vice president of Yukon Aboriginal Women's Council and co-chair of the Assembly of First Nations Women's Council, and works as a consultant and events coordinator through her business, Destiny Management Consulting.
Richard Spener first visited Alaska in 1987 where he and his wife, Toni Armstrong, sea kayaked in Glacier Bay. Since then they have paddled and hiked in Alaska more than 26 times, including eight trips to the Arctic Refuge. As advocates and avid photographers they have been active supporting candidates that are favorable to Alaska issues. Richard founded a manufacturers food service equipment representative firm in 1971, from which he is now retired. He also served on the advisory board of the Hotel and Restaurant Management program at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and is a Sierra Club trip leader and instructor in canoeing and kayaking.
John Sterling has spent more than 25 years working at the intersection of business and conservation. After serving as Director of Environmental Programs for Patagonia, Inc., John became the first executive director of The Conservation Alliance, a group of outdoor industry companies that work together to fund and advocate for conservation initiatives. John left The Conservation Alliance after 17 years, and now works as a consultant, helping businesses engage in conservation efforts. John lives in Bend, Oregon with his wife and two teenagers.