WC just wrapped up ten years as a Trustee for Alaska Conservation Foundation. One of the great pleasures of serving on the Board of Trustees was meeting and working with my fellow Trustees. Today’s guest blog post is a letter Trustee Michelle Ravenmoon wrote that nicely captures some of the reasons WC gave a decade to ACF.
This spring, I left my home on the remote shores of Lake Iliamna to attend a board meeting for Alaska Conservation Foundation in Anchorage. While on a break, I learned that many of my neighbors back home in Bristol Bay were meeting with representatives of the Pebble Mine. My heart sank.
I felt helpless and very far from home as I heard for the first time that the Pebble Partnership, together with one of our local village corporations, was planning to establish a base camp to explore possible road routes through the region. The roads would allow this multinational corporation to transport gold and copper out of Bristol Bay if the proposed Pebble Mine—the largest of its kind in the world—is built.
Having left a dependable job, I questioned many things, including myself. Proponents of the Pebble Mine argue that ‘no one lives a true subsistence lifestyle anymore’ and that we ‘need money to live in rural Alaska’. Seeing the communities in my region torn apart by this controversial project, I wondered if we needed a giant business to ‘save’ us from a lack of economic growth? I also wondered what role conservation had in my homeland and in my own way of life. Could I live from the land? How much income did I really need?
The first summer I was home alone, I netted fresh sockeye salmon, bright silver with red meat, as they arrived in my local bay. I dried, smoked and canned them. I removed the oil stove from my house and exchanged it for a wood stove. I spent autumn picking berries, making preserves and cutting wood. Throughout the first winter I ate trout, grouse, porcupine and homegrown vegetables. My third year home, I harvested a moose. My dad often said that we lived in the land of plenty; I believe that if we are respectful and responsible in our harvests from the land, the land fulfills our needs.
My return home was healing and rejuvenating for me in every way. Not many people can say they live in a place where their ancestors have lived for thousands of years on essentially the same foods. Here, I found the answers to my questions as I gained confidence in myself. I have discovered my strength and tenacity to live, and live well. We, as people of Bristol Bay, all have that same strength. We can define our own future—one based on economic opportunities that don’t force us to compromise our values or our unique way of life. Do we need a large mine in our region to save us? Absolutely not.
I am proud to serve on the board of Alaska Conservation Foundation. For more than a decade, this organization has been a critical ally to communities across Bristol Bay, funding and strategically supporting efforts to ensure our local voices are heard in the long-standing effort to defend against the proposed Pebble Mine. For nearly four decades, we have also supported both the Gwich’in people as they defend the Arctic Refuge from oil and gas development, and the residents of Southeast Alaska working to end industrial-scale logging in the Tongass National Forest.
In a time of grave threats to our public lands and the uncertainties of a changing climate, Alaska Conservation Foundation is doing more than supporting advocacy and legal defense. We are also supporting communities working to define and build resilient futures—futures that include strong land management for our wildlands and access to renewable energy, local food security and clean water.
Alaska Conservation Foundation is committed to protecting Alaska’s natural environment and the ways of life it sustains. Please join me in continuing to support their critical work. Together we are a powerful force in ensuring a healthy wild Alaska forever.
Thank you for your care and concern for Alaska—the land of plenty and my beloved home.
Michelle Ravenmoon, Trustee
Alaska Conservation Foundation