My husband and I first visited Alaska in 1982. A friend of ours from Germany was visiting the U.S. for the second time and wanted to go somewhere no one ever goes. We picked Alaska and it was love at first sight. The travel industry in Alaska was in its infancy so we really felt like we were on a wild trip. With all its variety and grandeur no photo could do Alaska justice. We vowed to come back as often as we could. Our subsequent trips reinforced our amazement with the expanse and diversity of the land. However, we also found that our own personal photos were documenting some disturbing changes to the Alaska environment: large sections of forests had been cleared, glaciers we had visited in 1982 were greatly diminished or no longer in existence; and Sitka spruces were dying because of the effects of climate change on permafrost.
Because of our interest, we began supporting local Alaska conservation groups, one of which was ACF. When the fight over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge intensified, our support for local groups also intensified. As firm believers in the power of education, we were drawn to ACF’s intern program and were impressed with its scope and record of success. ACF supplies all of the donors to the intern program with details on the intern’s progress and what they take away from the program. As donors we feel that we actually can help with the protection of Alaska, particularly through educating the next generation of conservationists.
Alaska belongs to us all. It is under siege from many directions, both external and internal, and it is essential for groups like ACF to be able to take a leadership role in educating the public about the consequences of these attacks for the future. It is especially important for me who has lived in a big city my whole life to know that the wild is out there and will continue to be out there.
When the proponents of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were describing it as a meaningless wasteland, we knew we had to help dissuade people of this misinformation. We were thrilled, therefore, when in 2005 we were able to camp out in the refuge for a few days with Carol Kasza, an ACF board member. My best memory of that trip was a near visit to our camp from an interested Grizzly Bear. Three of us sang and danced around to get the bear’s attention. Our off key singing and wild gyrations were apparently so terrible to listen to and watch that we scared the bear off. It was quite an exciting event and a highlight of our Alaska experience!