Chip Thoma arrived in Alaska by ferry in 1971, and so began his environmental advocacy career. His volunteerism ranges from informing state officials and tourists about poor pipeline design during the Alaska pipeline build phase to working closely with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) on wilderness protection in the Tongass. Over the years he has campaigned for numerous Democratic candidates, including Tony Knowles in 1990, 1994 and 1998, and served as editor of the SE Sun & Salmon Wrapper newspaper. When he wasn’t volunteering, Chip worked as a Teamster driver and union steward for the pipeline, and later joined the Department of Labor. Other advocacy involving the Forest Service included the purchase of 100 acres in Windham Bay, south of Juneau, and a 60’ cruiser called “Grizzly Bear!” While out on the high seas, Chip realized that cruise ship disposal practices needed to be reformed. In 1999, he joined the Department of Environmental Conservation cruise ship panel to reform waste disposal practices while ensuring cruise ships have appropriate treatment systems. He assisted with passing a 2006 citizen’s initiative requiring cruise ships to meet Alaska Water Quality standards in all discharges. Nine Governors and 350 legislators later, Chip is now entering his 40th year of environmental advocacy at the Alaska Legislature, as president of Responsible Cruising in Alaska.
Sandy Rabinowitch’s career in Alaska began when he authored the Master Plan for Chugach State Park in 1976. Thirty-four years later, Sandy continues to have a major impact on Alaska’s incredible park system. He has performed many leadership roles to the benefit of the state. As Chief of Operations for the Alaska State Park System he oversaw the day-to-day management of the state park system. Working for the National Park Service (NPS), starting in 1984, he authored the Cape Krusenstern General Management Plan. Later, he was the lead federal author of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Plan, which set the stage for protecting thousands of acres in Prince William Sound, Kodiak and the Kenai Peninsula. Next he took on the role of Subsistence Manager for the National Park Service, evaluating uncounted numbers of wildlife harvest proposals and figuring out the impact on NPS areas as the state began implementing regulatory changes under the 1994 Intensive Management statute. Sandy led the effort to maintain NPS standards in the areas overlapping state and federal jurisdiction. If not for his leadership, predator control might still be authorized in areas like Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and hunting regulations in Alaska’s parks would be very different than they are today. Sandy continues to work for the NPS on these important issues.
Oceana Wills is a prominent figure in the Homer chapter of Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA). An emerging leader, she stepped into her first leadership role in 2007, participating in AYEA’s Civics & Conservation Summit and joining the Statewide Advisory Group. In 2008, she was elected to be the chapter’s chairperson. Under her leadership Homer AYEA has thrived. She and her peers have spent the past two years working on a Climate Change & Energy campaign. However the most impressive project Oceana took on was leading the Homer AYEA group in drafting an energy chapter for Homer’s Comprehensive (Energy) Plan, which was submitted to the Homer Planning Commission. After testifying in front of the assembly, the city of Homer adopted the chapter into the larger plan. Oceana is an intelligent, creative advocate for her community – and a youth to watch in the future!
Elementary school teacher Ann Ghicadus has inspired young minds for 18 years. She incorporates conservation education into her daily curriculum, emphasizing to her students how lucky we are to live in a state abundant with fish, bird, animal, and plant life. Her classes undertake intensive studies in the different aspects of Alaska conservation. They also learn about conservation on a global level, doing unit studies on topics such as rainforests. In fact, when her classroom won a small monetary award, the children used it to adopt a portion of rainforest for protection. Ann nurtures a love for Alaska’s environment and instills the importance of being good stewards to the Earth in her students. She currently resides in Seward with her husband.
Independent filmmaker Jan Louter creates documentaries that are visually and conceptually imaginative and challenging. In “The Last Days of Shishmaref,” he explores the effects of global warming on an Inupiaq Eskimo community in northwest Alaska, just south of the Arctic Circle. The ice beneath the small village is melting. Homes are falling into the ocean. The situation is so severe that it has been predicted that the entire village will disappear within the next 10 years. Using imagery and soundscapes, Jan successfully captures the complex connections between man and his natural environment. While his previous films have focused on writers and artists, Jan explores a social issue that transcends local importance in this film and gives the viewer new insight into the issue. “Shishmaref” has won several international film awards, including the International Documentary Grand Jury Special Mention at AFI FEST 2008.
Joan Kane is Irish and Inupiaq Eskimo, with family from King Island and Mary’s Igloo in Alaska. An award-winning poet who crafts poems “as meticulous as snowflakes,” Joan’s most recent collection is The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife. She has received the John Haines Award from Ice Floe Press in 2004, was a semi-finalist for the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award in 2006, and received a 2007 individual artist award from the Rasmuson Foundation. In 2009 her play, “The Gilded Tusk,” won the Anchorage Museum theater contest and she was selected as a finalist for the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Fellowship. She is a 2009 recipient of the Connie Boochever Fellowship from the Alaska State Council on the Arts, a National Native Creative Development Program recipient, and a Whiting Writers’ Award winner. A graduate of Harvard College and Columbia University, Joan resides in Anchorage with her husband and two sons.
For 15 years, Bob Shavelson has served as Executive Director for Cook Inletkeeper, a nonprofit organization representing hundreds of Alaskans concerned about water quality and the health of our marine systems. Over the years, he has become a statewide and national leader as well as a dedicated advocate for the protection of Alaska’s Cook Inlet watershed. He grew up along the coast of southern New Jersey, where the sight of sewage sludge, dead dolphins and medical waste on local beaches galvanized his interest in water quality protection. After undergraduate work in biology and chemistry, Bob recognized the power of the law in shaping positive environmental outcomes, and obtained a law degree with certificates in environmental and ocean and coastal law. Prior to moving to Alaska, Bob worked in Congress as a Knauss Sea Grant Fellow, and ran Atlantic States Legal Foundation, a small nonprofit organization in upstate New York focused on Clean Water Act litigation. At Cook Inletkeeper, Bob helped develop the most comprehensive citizen-based water quality monitoring program in Alaska, and has teamed up with Tribes, fishermen and small businesses to play a leading role on coal, oil and gas, beluga whale and related issues. Bob lives in Homer with his wife and baby daughter. When he’s not working, Bob likes to surf the chilly waters of Kachemak Bay and the Gulf of Alaska.