2021 Award Recipients

In recognition of their remarkable achievements in protecting Alaska, the following individuals have been awarded Alaska Conservation Foundation’s 2021 Conservation Achievement Awards

 

Lifetime Achievement Award

Marilyn Sigman – Homer, Alaska

Marilyn Sigman was a freshman in college during the first Earth Day in 1970, which turned out to be the educational event that inspired her focus on ecology and environmental work and advocacy ever after. She arrived in Alaska in 1974 as a graduate student at UAF in wildlife management with a research project involving moose cow-calf behavior. During the time when she was analyzing her data and writing up her thesis in Fairbanks, she took a part-time job as an administrative assistant at the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. There, she typed up lots of meeting notes, witnessed coalition building, and was inspired by the kitchen-table discussions that culminated in d-2 and ANILCA land designations and protections. She spent the next several decades working throughout the state, first as a wildlife and habitat biologist for state and federal agencies and later as an environmental educator and director of the Center for Alaska Coastal Studies in Homer. Before her retirement from the UAF faculty in 2019, she worked for a decade as the marine education specialist for Alaska Sea Grant, supporting education and outreach about ocean climate change, including facilitating and supporting collaborations among Indigenous educators and other Indigenous knowledge holders with scientists and educators trained in western ecological science and western science education methods. She has served on the boards of environmental organizations and as the Board Chair for ACF, Alaska Geographic (when it was formerly ANHA), and the Alaska Natural Resources and Outdoor Education Association. Her book, Entangled: People and Ecological Change in Alaska’s Kachemak Bay, was selected to receive the 2020 John Burroughs Medal for outstanding natural history writing. Marilyn lives in Homer, within the traditional homelands of the Dena’ina and the Sugpiaq Alutiit, where she tends her garden and a small patch of forest habitat that provides her with opportunities to continue to ruminate alongside the moose who find shelter there and to watch the birds who gladden her heart.

 

Celia Hunter Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions

David Raskin – Homer, Alaska

David’s lifelong devotion to wildlife and their natural habitats began as a child while growing up along the beaches of Southern California. In 1968, he accepted a professorship at the University of Utah, where he organized the first University program in environmental studies, after which he volunteered to become the Utah state conservation chairman for the Sierra Club. David opted for early retirement in 1995 so that he and Marga could fulfill their lifelong dream to live in Alaska. After arriving in Alaska, David served on the board and then as president of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. He soon became acquainted with the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and was recruited in 2005 to be a co-founder and first president of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges (Friends) and has served in that position for 14 years. 

 

As chair of the Friends Advocacy Committee, David has been the public voice for the protection of all 16 Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. He is a leader in the fight to protect Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and has worked closely with the USFWS to develop and promote their recommendation for full Wilderness designation for the Arctic Refuge. David continues to work with the Kenai Refuge to prevent wanton hunting of brown bears, predator control, and dismantling its important trapping regulations. David works closely with many Alaska and national organizations to oppose numerous developments that would negatively impact Alaska’s 16 National Wildlife Refuges. Throughout these often controversial and contentious activities, David has gained the respect of conservation activists and professionals for his thorough analyses and dedication to the scientific and legal bases for his positions and recommendations. His thoughtful insights and matter-of-fact approach have earned his reputation as an important ally and advocate who can be trusted to judiciously and effectively advocate for the protection and enhancement of Alaska’s 16 incomparable National Wildlife Refuges.

 

Olaus Murie Award for Outstanding Professional Contributions

Chris Rose – Anchorage, Alaska

Chris Rose founded Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP) in 2004 and has led efforts to transition Alaska away from expensive, carbon-based fuels toward local renewable energy and energy efficiency. He has been instrumental in establishing state clean energy policy and programs, and REAP’s efforts have helped bring nearly $1 billion in state appropriations to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that have benefitted tens of thousands of people across Alaska. A lawyer, mediator, activist, and coalition builder, Chris has been a community leader and modern-day homesteader since he settled in the Matanuska Valley in the early 1990s. He works tirelessly to draw the many connections between our daily energy decisions and the society and environment we live in and will leave for future generations.

 

Denny Wilcher Award for Young Environmental Activists

Emily Taylor – Anchorage, Alaska

Emily is a fifth-generation indigenous commercial fisherman from Bristol Bay. Her roots in Bristol Bay inspired her to become an advocate against the Pebble Mine, and this advocacy work led to her branching out into other environmental action areas. She has been invoked as a leader in Alaska Youth for Environmental Action where she has been able to plan events, advocate for her community, and train other youth to do the same. Some of these events include climate strikes like the one Emily planned to advocate for indigenous rights and anti-consumerism. She traces all of her work back to her identity as an Alaska Native commercial fisherman.

 

Lowell Thomas, Jr. Award for Outstanding Achievements by an Organization Doing Conservation Work

Hoonah Indian Association – Hoonah, Alaska

Hoonah Indian Association (HIA) is a federally recognized tribe whose mission is to utilize the values and wisdom of our elders to provide programming and opportunities for our Tribal members. Within HIA, the Environmental Department has been a community leader in landscape restoration, achieving public health through water quality monitoring, developing a local workforce, establishing progressive coastal monitoring, and heavily engaging youth. Their work is made possible thanks to the hard work of its 6 permanent staff and up to 10 seasonal staff. The department is driven by community needs and constantly seeks to tailor its work to community benefit. This manifests in itself in diverse partnerships, active community engagement, blogging, meetings, videos, and surveys. Community is the key-pin of the work of the HIA Environmental Department. Recent, core achievements in conservation and environmental science include three-stream restorations, a focus on climate on black seaweed and stream temperatures, active monitoring for paralytic shellfish poisoning, and developing a local workforce of adults and youth engaged in natural resource management.

 

Jerry S. Dixon Award for Excellence in Environmental Education

Kate Morse – Cordova, Alaska

Kate Morse first connected with nature through backyard pond and stream explorations on the farm where she grew up in central Pennsylvania. This chance to explore and play freely instilled a life-long curiosity for aquatic ecosystems and inspired her to pursue a degree in aquatic ecology and seek out opportunities to guide youth on their own fun explorations of the natural world, in particular into streams, lakes, and oceans. Upon landing in Cordova, AK for what was then a few-month internship with the Prince William Sound Science Center, Kate realized that she had landed in one of the most incredible outdoor classrooms on Earth. The few-month internship turned into 18 years and counting of developing and implementing field-based exploration opportunities for K-12 youth in the Copper River watershed and Prince William Sound region, working initially for the Science Center and since 2008 for the Copper River Watershed Project where she is currently the Program Director. During her time in Alaska, she has developed a strong network of partners and friends with whom she is able to create engaging, unique outdoor learning experiences that aim to connect participants with their surroundings and inspire them to be stewards of these resources into the future. She has been instrumental in developing and expanding watershed-themed programs to the six school sites in the Copper River watershed, helping students in remote, rural communities see themselves as members of a watershed community that need to work together across the region to ensure the health of the watershed and its resources into the future — when possible even bringing students from throughout the region together to build lasting friendships. Kate Morse first connected with nature through backyard pond and stream explorations on the farm where she grew up in central Pennsylvania. This chance to explore and play freely instilled a life-long curiosity for aquatic ecosystems and inspired her to pursue a degree in aquatic ecology and seek out opportunities to guide youth on their own fun explorations of the natural world, in particular into streams, lakes, and oceans. Upon landing in Cordova, AK for what was then a few-month internship with the Prince William Sound Science Center, Kate realized that she had landed in one of the most incredible outdoor classrooms on Earth. The few-month internship turned into 18 years and counting of developing and implementing field-based exploration opportunities for K-12 youth in the Copper River watershed and Prince William Sound region, working initially for the Science Center and since 2008 for the Copper River Watershed Project where she is currently the Program Director. During her time in Alaska, she has developed a strong network of partners and friends with whom she is able to create engaging, unique outdoor learning experiences that aim to connect participants with their surroundings and inspire them to be stewards of these resources into the future. She has been instrumental in developing and expanding watershed-themed programs to the six school sites in the Copper River watershed, helping students in remote, rural communities see themselves as members of a watershed community that need to work together across the region to ensure the health of the watershed and its resources into the future — when possible even bringing students from throughout the region together to build lasting friendships.

 

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

Mark Titus – Seattle, Washington

Starting in 1991, Mark Titus spent 25 years learning the salmon industry as a processor in Bristol Bay, then as a fishing guide in Southeast Alaska. In 2006, Mark founded August Island Pictures in Seattle and learned the craft of storytelling by writing and directing brand films for clients like Amazon, Microsoft, The Nature Conservancy, T-Mobile, and the United Nations Development Programme. As a filmmaker, Mark Titus has directed and produced short films since 2003.  In 2014 Mr. Titus helmed The Breach – an award-winning feature documentary about wild salmon.  The Breach screened at 25+ international film festivals and in 2015 completed a 20-city national theatrical tour across The United States. In 2020, Mark Titus launched impact brand, Eva’s Wild concurrent to the release of his newest award-winning feature documentary, The Wild, which examines the fate of Bristol Bay and asks if it is possible to save the things we love. In early 2021, Mark launched a new podcast, Save What You Love. Through his broadcasting and storytelling, Mark carries the message that humanity has an inherent need for wildness – and to fulfill that need we have a calling to protect wild places and wild things. You can find all of Mark’s current projects at www.evaswild.com

 

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

Louise Brady – Sitka, Alaska

Herring management in Southeast Alaska and particularly around Sitka has a long history of controversy. The community of Sitka had opposed the commercial sac-roe herring fishery for decades, to no avail. The Alaska Board of Fish announced its intention to hold a special hearing in Sitka on the herring fishery. In this contentious situation, Louise Brady began organizing a group that became known as the Herring Rock Water Protectors that turned out over 100 people to testify at the Board of Fish meeting and was responsible for hundreds of written comments. Although the Board of Fish ultimately decided against the herring conservation proposals, her efforts have had widespread impacts. She and the Protectors have put culture at the forefront in the fight to save herring. Louise has been the driving force that has brought a diverse community together, raising a broader understanding of the importance of herring to Tlingit culture.