Meet the 2012 Winners  

Celebrating Alaska’s conservation heroes

Lifetime Achievement

Jack Lentfer

Jack Lentfer

A pioneer in polar bear research and active conservationist for 50 years, Jack Lentfer has devoted his life to preserving Alaska’s wildlife. During his long career with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Jack developed a reputation as a researcher committed to scientific integrity and honesty. He courageously stood tall for wildlife conservation, never intimidated or silenced by political pressure. Whether leading ADF&G’s brown and polar bear research programs, running countless expeditions to the Arctic, or dealing with southeast Alaska forest habitat issues, Jack has worked tirelessly for the conservation of Alaska’s wildlife and wild lands.

An outspoken critic of aerial hunting of polar bears, Jack was a major player in the preservation of this iconic Arctic species. During his time with the Alaska Board of Game, he insisted on using science as the foundation for allocation decisions, a significant transition from the Board’s previous strategy. Numerous congressional hearings over the years have featured Jack’s scientific knowledge; perhaps most notable is his 1986 testimony on the Tongass National Forest before the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs that led to the Tongass Timber Reform Act.

Jack was an original member of the IUCN/International Polar Bear Specialist Group in 1968 and has served on the US Marine Mammal Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service Steller Sea Lion Recovery Team.  He is a Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America, a past President of the Alaska Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and author of many scientific papers.  Even at age 80, his passion for conservation continues. He goes the extra mile to translate his knowledge and professional expertise directly into conservation action, providing Alaska with an unwavering voice for conservation science and balanced management.

Celia Hunter Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions

Wally & Jerri Cole

Wally and Jerry Cole

Wally Cole began his Alaska odyssey in 1959 as a college student from Maine working for the summer at Mt. McKinley Park Hotel. He returned several years later to manage the Park’s visitor services. It was here where he met his future wife Jerri. After three years of bush-internship in a 16×16 cabin near Denali Park and attracted to its close-knit community, Wally and Jerri decided to settle there permanently.

In 1975, they assumed ownership of Camp Denali and acquired nearby North Face Lodge in 1987. Their company grew into a unique for-profit experiential education model within the national park system. Day-to-day operations of Camp Denali and North Face Lodge have recently transitioned to their son-in-law and daughter, Simon and Jenna Hamm.

In cooperation with the National Park Service, they established a non-profit experiential education institute based at the entrance of Denali National Park in the 90s. Now under the auspices of Alaska Geographic, the institute offers field seminars, teacher trainings, and youth programs in partnership with several of Alaska’s public lands agencies.

Wally and Jerri were early participants in the Denali Citizens’ Council.  Wally has served on the Boards of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the Alaska Conservation Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy Alaska. Jerri is a former board chair of the Alaska Geographic and presently serves on the board of the Association of Partners for Public Lands.  Both are actively involved in NPCA’s National Council.

They have two children, Land and Jenna, a daughter-in-law Laura, a son-in-law Simon, and three grandchildren, Oliver Cole, Danika Hamm, and Silas Hamm.

Olaus Murie Award for Outstanding Professional Contributions

Tim Bristol

Tim Bristol

Tim Bristol first came to Alaska in 1991. After spending five days on a Greyhound bus with his friend Jim, he then boarded the M/V Columbia and soon realized his life had changed for good. A summer working in a cannery and living in a tent in rainy Ketchikan did not dampen his enthusiasm for Alaska. After finishing school in 1993 Tim moved north for good.

After a short stint as Assistant Editor for the Anchorage Press, Tim landed a job at the Alaska Center for the Environment as part of the newly formed Alaska Rainforest Campaign. While there, he traveled around Prince William Sound and to Kodiak, building support for using Exxon criminal and civil settlement funds to pay for habitat protection in the spill zone. In 1995, he headed back to Southeast to work at Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) where he spent five years defending the old growth forests of the Tongass National Forest. Ultimately, SEACC and its many allies helped shepherd through the legislature a new, far more protective forest plan for the Tongass. Tim then went to work for the Alaska Conservation Foundation where he helped resuscitate the Alaska Coalition, a nationwide pro-Alaska public lands group that worked with a wide array of Alaskan and Lower 48 allies to defeat numerous legislative attacks against the Tongass, the Arctic Refuge, and other Alaska public lands.

In 2005, Tim began working for Trout Unlimited, America’s largest cold water fish conservation organization, where today he is focused on watershed restoration in the Tongass as well as on protection of the Bristol Bay watershed. Tim lives in Juneau with his girlfriend Jan Rumble and their three cats Sabrina, Klondike, and Weezy.

Lowell Thomas, Jr. Award for Outstanding Achievements by a Conservation Organization

World Wildlife Fund, Arctic Field Program

World Wildlife Fund, US Arctic Program

The work of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) US Arctic Field Program, under the leadership of Margaret Williams, embodies the collaborative spirit critical to conservation success. WWF works across boundaries to preserve and protect Alaska’s wildlife, wild places, and natural resources. It is staffed by specialists in climate change, fisheries, oil and gas, and shipping, while also emphasizing communications as part of an international conservation strategy for the Bering, Beaufort, and Chukchi Seas. WWF works creatively and effectively to conserve Alaska’s diverse, unique ecosystems.

In its focus on transcending boundaries, WWF joins with local people and communities–tribal leaders, local NGOs, and citizen activists–to ensure these diverse voices are heard, their knowledge is respected, and their conservation issues addressed. This emphasis on collaboration has even brought successful programs from abroad to Alaska. Most recently, because of WWF’s ability to span cultural and linguistic divides, a successful polar bear patrol, established by the Chukotkan community in Russia to prevent human-polar bear conflict, has since been shared with Barrow, Point Hope, Wainwright, and Point Lay.

World Wildlife Fund, US Arctic Field Program embraces the reality that Alaska’s oceans and animals do not stop at international borders. Their strategic and science-based approach to environmental advocacy, engaging players both large and small, is a valuable contribution to the broader conservation movement and the future health of the Alaska landscape.

Denny Wilcher Award for Young Environmental Activists

Joseph Ransdell-Green

Joseph Ransdell-Green

As a young child Joseph Ransdell-Green loved exploring the Alaska wilderness with his family. Inspired to protect the land and influence its future management, he started writing letters to public officials and governmental agencies, giving public testimony, and engaging in youth environmental activism.

In March 2010, Joseph attended the Civics & Conservation Summit hosted in Juneau by Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA). This experience motivated him to found an AYEA chapter in his hometown of Fairbanks and later serve on AYEA’s Wild Alaska Salmon Campaign. Joseph presented this campaign in Anchorage at the Alaska Forum on the Environment and later took the signatures AYEA’s Fairbanks chapter had collected from residents concerned about protecting salmon, to legislators in Juneau. The campaign inspired him to write a song, “Say No to A Pebble Mine” which he performed in front of the capital building and can be found on YouTube.

In 2010, Joseph was honored with the Youth of the Year award from Northern Alaska Environmental Center for his commitment to conservation and constant leadership in the movement. In addition to his involvement with AYEA in Fairbanks, Joseph has served as a youth mentor of the Civics Summit in Juneau, on the board of the Arctic Audubon Society, and for AYEA’s Statewide Advisory Group. Joseph’s hobbies include writing songs, playing guitar, contra dancing, birding, and exploring the natural history of Alaska.

Aurora Hoefferle

Aurora Hoefferle

Aurora Hoefferle is the face the of the youth conservation movement in Bristol Bay. She founded one of the most successful Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) chapters in her home community of Dillingham and led a statewide youth effort to protect Bristol Bay and its salmon.

More than three years ago, Aurora helped to found the ‘Rebbles to the Pebble’ AYEA chapter to unite local teens in an effort to protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine. Not only is she one of the energizing forces behind that organization, but she has strengthened the group’s connection with the Dillingham-based Leadership & Assets Youth Coalition (LAYC), fostering collaboration on Culture Camps and a mentorship program. During the 2011-2012 academic year, Aurora served as an AYEA Youth Organizer.

Aurora is a committed, driven activist for rural Alaska youth. She traveled to Washington, DC to lobby against offshore oil development and also for the protection of wild salmon. Back at home, she has advocated for the Parks and Recreation Committee before the Dillingham City Council and made presentations at her local Youth and Elders Conference. Aurora is true to her convictions, encouraging to her peers, and an inspiration for everyone, regardless of age, to engage with their local, state, and federal leaders to effect change.

Nicole George

Nicole George

Nicole George was raised in the changing landscape of Southeast Alaska where Tlingit knowledge and Western science coexist, but are rarely woven together. Her ability to see how one compliments the other, combined with her kind spirit and ability to communicate and lead effectively make her an exemplary young environmental activist.

Nicole began her journey as a conservationist over three years ago while working at Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA), Native Lands and Resources Department. Her innovative ideas, perspective, and enthusiasm were critical in planning the Annual Culture Camp. In 2010, Nicole then applied her skills to the development of the Environmental Youth Leadership Team, uniting Juneau youth who strive to live by the Southeast traditional values as “stewards of the land, air, and sea.”

An active member in the Environmental Youth Leadership Team and committed to preserving her Tlingit way of life, Nicole began examining the impact of climate change on her culture. She undertook a solutions-driven historical study of the resources used by Tlingit Natives in an effort to help her community adapt to possible future landscape changes. Nicole’s unique project became the youth-led focus of CCTHITA’s Héen Latinee five-year collaborative effort between the Native Lands and Resources Department, US Forest Service, and Goldbelt Heritage Foundation.

In addition, Nicole’s innate leadership talents enabled her to create the “Partners Against Plastics” campaign, which later became the focus of CCTHITA’s Earth Day 2012 project. Equally impressive is how her diligent and thoughtful planning of this campaign has made it possible for other young leaders to replicate its success.

In fall 2012, Nicole will start at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, pursing a degree in environmental sciences. She will undoubtedly continue to share her commitment to her people, concern for their land, and desire to preserve the environment for future generations of Alaskans.

Daniel Housberg Wilderness Image Award for Excellence in Still Photography, Film, or Video

Ken Tape

Ken Tape

Ken Tape is a lifelong Alaskan wilderness and science photographer, whose artistic interests are concentrated on landscape and aurora photography. His passion for the outdoors and the beauty of the Arctic motivates him to seek out, record, and share the timeless moments of remote Arctic locations (

Ken uses repeat photography to detect changes in vegetation, glaciers, and permafrost in response to climate change. By pairing decades-old photos of the Alaska Arctic with contemporary views of the same scenery and vantage points, Ken beautifully captures the fragility of the Alaska environment. These unique pictures are presented in his book “The Changing Arctic Landscape” (University of Alaska Press, March 2010), the content of which was developed into an interactive museum exhibit that debuted May 2010 through January 2011 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Museum of the North and is now traveling nationally ( Ken’s photos and scientific work have been featured widely in calendars and journals, scientific and otherwise.

Ken received a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and his current research examines changing bird and caribou habitat in arctic Alaska. Raised in Fairbanks, Ken is truly dedicated to sharing both the beauty and changing conditions of the North American Arctic.

Jerry S. Dixon Award for Excellence in Environmental Education

Tom Burek

Tom Burek

Since 1996, Tom Burek has directed the Trailside Discovery Camp (TDC), a nature camp for youth ages 4-16 organized by Alaska Center for the Environment. Because of Tom’s innovative approach to conservation, TDC is the strongest and largest environmental education program in Alaska. Each year, under his guidance and careful planning, TDC introduces more than 5,000 campers to the joys and importance of a healthy landscape. Through engaging summer, winter, and spring camps along with in- and after-school programs, tens of thousands of Alaskans have been introduced to the Alaska conservation movement. Additionally, hundreds of young adults have started their conservation careers as TDC staff.

Tom is dedicated to making environmental education available to all children in Alaska. By collaborating with school districts, Campfire, and Boys and Girls Clubs and building a robust scholarship program, over 5,000 children from low-income circumstances throughout Southcentral Alaska have enjoyed the TDC experience and started what will hopefully be a life-long connection with their environment. With his calm, understated personal style, and true dedication to inspiring children to protect their natural surroundings, Tom is making a lasting contribution to Alaska and its future leaders. For countless numbers of Alaska’s children and parents, school breaks and summers would not be the same without him.

Prior to serving as TDC Director, Tom worked for the Detroit YMCA as their Environmental Education Director. He graduated with a degree in Park & Recreation Management from Eastern Michigan University and currently attends graduate school at Alaska Pacific University.  He also plays a mean acoustic Delta blues guitar.

Caleb Pungowiyi Award for Outstanding Achievements by an Alaska Native Organization or Individual

Orville Huntington

Orville Huntington

Orville Huntington is the Wildlife and Parks Director for Tanana Chiefs Conference-Huslia (Athabascan) and the 42 tribes it represents in Interior Villages of Alaska. Previously, he spent 14 years as a Wildlife Biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). In 2012, he was appointed to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

After graduating from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1995, Orville worked for the USFWS as a Refuge Operations Specialist in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Thoughtful deliberation about his position and his children growing up without their cultural Athabascan Indian identity led him and his family back to rural Alaska, first to Galena and then in 1999 to his home village of Huslia. Orville has devoted 20 years to ceaseless advocacy for his Tribe through his service on the Huslia Tribal and City Councils, Koyitl’otsina Ltd. Board of Directors, and the Interior Regional Housing Authority Board of Directors,

A deeply committed leader both inside and outside Huslia, Orville has held key positions in a medley of Alaska Native groups. He has served on the Alaska Federation of Natives Board of Directors, Alaska Native Science Commission, Interior Athabascan Tribal College Board of Trustees, State of Alaska Rural Education Committee, University of Alaska Rural Education Panel, Koyukuk River Advisory Committee, and the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs Advisory Council.

Professionally and personally, Orville is devoted to preserving subsistence hunting and fishing rights, gathering and trapping opportunities, and the culture that surrounds these important activities. He has never spent more than three weeks outside of Alaska and continues the traditional Native way of life. He is driven by a connection to the Alaska environment and a desire to teach the next generation the values of traditional knowledge while incorporating contemporary western science.

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