By Kiel Renick
I get into the office a bit before nine to find our Legislative Director Dave Therrieult already on his second cup of coffee. As the computer starts to hum I spend my first hour of the day sifting through my inbox and reviewing the news from statewide news sources. That hour predictably spills over and into mid morning as I try to reply to urgent messages and return phone calls from member groups, government agencies, or various other stakeholders.
By late morning I’m finally enveloped in the day’s to-do list. This could be anything from calling businesses to build support for a commercial energy audit program to digging through the technical details of Alaska Energy Authority reports for proposed projects. It could be coaching constituents on effective presentation strategies and connecting them with their legislators, or writing letters to the editor on issues of importance to member groups.
Normally noon is well passed before we’ve thought of lunch. The midday meal is often spent on the job in some capacity, whether talking out the day’s issues with Dave in the office kitchen, catching up on supplementary reading while eating in front of the computer, or having a power lunch with a legislative staffer as a way to gather and disseminate information.
Many key committees hold hearings in the afternoon which gets me changed from rubber boots to leather shoes and over to the Capitol. Talking with friends before meetings, taking notes during testimony, and asking follow up questions of the experts afterwards keeps me pretty busy while I’m there.
I normally leave with updates to report, so I return to the office, dress back down, and get on the horn. Sharing info and listening to reactions I compile a contact list and a series of action items for the next day and try to get out of the office before it’s been dark for too long (it should be easier in March and April but in the legislative business the workload grows with the daylight). Occasionally there are legislative receptions around Juneau which are a great excuse to socialize and fill up on free food while “networking”, but normally I head home to my quiet cabin to enjoy the Alaska I proudly spend my days protecting.
In November we welcomed Sonya Wellman to the Alliance as our new Development Director. Sonya is originally from Anchorage and grew up here before leaving the state to go to the University of Oregon and then relocating to Washington State in 2006. She moved back to Anchorage early last year.
Sonya loves many things about Alaska including the can-do attitude of the people and how laid back Alaskans are. She especially loves the history of the area and she enjoys the outdoor opportunities that are always available and very close. When asked about differences and similarities she sees between Alaska and other states she says ‘I have to be honest – Alaska is a breed all of its own—and I love it. I found some similarities in
Seattle, Bellingham and Vancouver, but Alaska is a wild card in any equation.’
Conservation in Alaska is vital to Sonya given the beauty and abundance of natural resources. She feels that if we aren’t proactive about protecting our environment, it will take much longer for it to recover later. Sonya is also a big advocate of eating and buying local foods whenever possible. She always wants to know where the food she is eating came from and where the waste from the production of items she purchases is going. Other causes she is passionate about include stopping the widespread use of rape in Congolese warfare and human trafficking.
Sonya was attracted to the Alliance because of our belief that a healthy environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. She was looking for a development opportunity in the non-profit realm but wanted the challenge of working on issues she previously had not worked with. The part of her job that she enjoys most is meeting new people and branching out into different aspects of fundraising.
In her spare time, Sonya is working on completing several pieces of fiction, one set in Alaska just prior to and during World War II.
Happy Friday! Here is your weekly news round-up of Alaska conservation news making headlines.
Alaska health officials warn of toxins in North Pole gardens: http://www.adn.com/2011/01/19/1656410/alaska-health-officials-warn-of.html
Usibelli mine to pay $60,000 in water permit fees: http://www.adn.com/2011/01/21/1659651/mine-to-pay-60000-in-water-permit.html
Unearthed toxin at Ft. Wainwright likely injured workers: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/dispatches/news/8404-unearthed-toxin-at-fort-wainwright-likely-injured-workers
The Porcupine Caribou herd appears to be growing: http://ap.juneauempire.com/pstories/state/ak/20110121/774154376.shtml
Carole Fisher’s ‘Sticks in the Mind’ exhibit about the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill opens in Minneapolis today: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/21/carole-fisher-oil-spill_n_812144.html#s227448&title=Smith_Island_in
This weekend, at the Taproot in Anchorage, Alaska Conservation Voters celebrated our inaugural ‘Jump off to Juneau’ event. Not your typical fundraiser, this event was designed to showcase our organization to locals and to allow us to ‘let our hair down’ (figuratively speaking of course!) before the start of the legislative session. January through May is our busiest time of the year as staff work hard to help pass strong conservation policy although, in election years, September through November is equally as busy in terms of staff output. On Friday night we were able to relax, loosen-up, and just hang out with supporters. The night boasted music, games and prizes, drinks, friends and just plain ole’ fun. Below are some pictures from the night and feel free to browse the entire album on our Facebook page. We want to thank all our sponsors, the Taproot, and everyone who came out to party with us last Friday!
This is your weekly round up of conservation news that is important to Alaskans. We wish everyone a safe and happy weekend!
The Alyeska pipeline, this week, has leaked, been shut down, been restarted, and now is shutting down again today to undergo more repairs. The latest: http://www.adn.com/2011/01/13/1647765/pipeline-to-shut-down-friday-for.html
The Center for Biological Diversity plans to sue over polar bear habitat and protections: http://www.adn.com/2011/01/13/1647134/group-plans-suit-to-shield-polar.html
Department of Natural Resources is holding ONE public hearing on Wednesday, January 19th, at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai on the merits of the proposed Chuitna coal mine. Cook Inletkeeper and Alaska Center for the Environment have teamed up to provide transportation to folks from Anchorage for the event. For more information, see this link: http://akcenter.org/wild-salmon-or-dirty-coal
The latest on Fairbanks air quality issues: http://www.newsminer.com/view/full_story/11008835/article-Few-show-up-to-address-upcoming-borough-air-quality-changes?instance=home_news_window_left_top_4
A new study tracks salmon coping with warming rivers: http://ap.juneauempire.com/pstories/state/ak/20110113/769672483.shtml
And finally, FDA ignored FWS and NOAA opinion on GMO salmon? http://www.alaskadispatch.com/dispatches/alaska-beat/88-alaska-beat/8296-fda-ignored-fws-and-noaa-biological-opinions-on-gmo-salmon
Alaska Conservation Alliance and Voters proudly announces the launch of our ‘Alaska Conservation Action Alert’ system. This system provides the average, busy Alaskan with all the tools needed to make your voice heard. Here’s how it works. When our Legislative Director Dave Theriault (the amateur engineer you learned all about in the previous blog post) determines that an issue warrants a little extra attention from Alaskans, you will receive an email from us. The email will include some background information about the issue and instructions on how you can help! We will provide you with links to email your legislators and even samples of language you can use when writing or calling. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to take action in the quickest time. You won’t receive frivolous emails from this system. The only correspondence you will receive will be on actual issues that need your help urgently and a once a month update through out the legislative session. So if you would like to help but are short on time, please consider joining our Action Alert system to make your voice heard on conservation issues when it is most needed. Click here to sign up!
Dave Theriault joined Alaska Conservation Alliance and Voters in November as our new Legislative and Outreach Director. He is currently in Juneau getting ready to represent the conservation community to the legislature there!
Dave has been in Alaska for a number of years but he does not originally hail from Alaska. ‘I was raised in Maine where the winters are cold, the lobsters are delicious, and people like to put R’s in words that don’t need them and take out R’s in those that do,’ says Dave. He’s found a home in Alaska and loves the small towns and the colorful people that live in them. About the differences between Alaska and other states, Dave says ‘People take their trucks more seriously here than almost anywhere else I’ve been; lift kits rule the streets.’ He also feels that Alaska is far more culturally diverse than anywhere else he’s lived and finds that Alaskans are very eager to share their hobbies with others.
Dave would like to see Alaska learn from other parts of the U.S. and develop a sustainable economy. He worries that Alaska’s fisheries will be destroyed or be plagued by the same problems that Maine’s fishing fleet experienced. When asked about other issues he feels strongly about, Dave expresses a wish for Alaska to expand their early education opportunities. Dave attributes much of his current successes to a great education beginning with an excellent preschool program and thinks that many Alaskan children are missing out on the benefits.
Dave is excited about joining the Alliance team because he enjoys working in state politics and loves that he will, in addition, get the opportunity to focus on issues important to him. He is especially thrilled about working directly with legislators and their staff. To him, trying to get a bill passed is an intellectual and social challenge and he loves the exhilaration of it.
One thing that you might not know about Dave is that he was an amateur engineer as a child. He and his brother once tried to dig a hole to China in the field behind the house where he grew up. His father quickly ended their ambitions after they had dug about 5 feet as he didn’t like the idea of the boys designing structural supports before they were 10.
Welcome Dave! To read more about Dave, please click here to be directed to our staff bios.
Each year we inevitably reach December and before you know it a new year is rolling around. We begin a new set of 365 days to be alive, to enjoy our time here on Earth. As January 1st approaches we take stock of what we accomplished in the year that is ending, our goals and dreams for that year and what was realized. We then look ahead to the New Year, an unending abyss of possibilities and opportunities, and make our resolutions. We resolve to walk the dog for at least x minutes each day; to be a better parent, a better friend; we resolve to shop less and save more; or something even as simple as resolving to compliment one person each day.
I’ve often wondered what would happen if everyone, every inhabitant of the modern world, included one conservation pledge in their list of New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of making only resolutions that pertain to personal or professional goals (don’t get me wrong, those are definitely admirable), if we all made one resolution to do something good for the environment. What if each one of us residents of this planet we call Earth resolved to no longer use plastic bags, or to finally implement some of those energy efficiency measures we’ve been thinking about doing, or to use natural cleaning products instead of chemical ones even half of the time? What would that look like? Could you imagine how much we could accomplish?!
Here are some of the conservation resolutions of Alliance staff members:
- Removing as many processed foods from the house as possible.
- Paying attention to the items my family purchases to ensure they are made in eco-friendly ways by companies that have good environmental track records.
- Purchasing as many items as possible with plastic recyclable packaging instead of glass (glass isn’t recycled in Alaska but plastic is) and then being diligent about recycling those plastic items.
- Using not only reusable grocery bags (instead of paper or plastic) but also reusable produce bags and reusable sandwich and snack bags.
- Switching a majority of my cleaning products to the ‘green’ versions, i.e. vinegar, baking soda, and borax.
- Biking or walking to work and meetings whenever possible.
- Making half of my clothing purchases used from thrift or consignment stores instead of brand new from retail stores.