Erol Foundation Explores Alaska

Published on January 2, 2015

ak learning journey cover

To expand activities in the Environmentally Sustainable Systems core funding area, Erol Foundation set out in 2014 to learn more about the complex balance sustainable industry and environment in Alaska.

 

Policymaking for a more resilient Alaska

In December, the White House exercised executive authority to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay from all oil and gas leasing projects, including a pending oil pipeline that would change the ecosystem irreparably. President Obama said of the decision, “It’s something that is too precious for us to be putting out to the highest bidder.”

The announcement of the increased protection of the 52,000 square mile Bristol Bay watershed marks another accomplishment in the advocacy work of these organizations. However, despite significant warnings from the EPA about the environmental hazards of the proposed Pebble Mine, federal officials are still considering going forward with the project.

Over the course of 2014, all of us at Erol Foundation followed the progress of two of our newest grantees in environmental advocacy, Alaska Conservation Foundation & Bristol Bay United. This past summer, we had the chance to glean new information and first-hand experiences when we traveled to the region on an Amplifier Strategies Learning Journey.

 

Sustainable Environmental Systems in Southwest Alaska

Erol participated in a Sustainable Environmental Systems Learning Journey to Southwest Alaska in July. We explored Alaska’s mineral-rich land and vibrant aquatic ecosystems. Conservation scientists and marine experts, grassroots organizers, native subsistence fishermen, and commercial fishermen shared their insights along the way.

Trip highlights included:

  • • Bristol Bay United’s Sam Shoren introducing Bristol Bay’s history and fishery (Alaska Native, commercial and sport fishing).
  • • Graduates of the Bristol Bay Guide Academy leading a conversation about Alaska Native communities, the need for jobs, the historic conflict between Natives and sport fishing communities, and the Bristol Bay Land Trust.
  • • A Tongass Forest Roundtable with Tim Bristol and partners from ACF, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, regional tribes and other community-based organizations in conversation about resource development (forestry and mining), sustainable fisheries and communities.
  • • Last but not least, the great outdoors: kayaking to see whales, glaciers and wildlife and a naturalist hike with Dick Russell, a retired Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist

Over the course of this Journey, we saw the visible impact of industries on ecosystems and local livelihoods and began what will likely be an ongoing discussion of the social and ecological changes taking place in Southeast Alaska. Thanks to all our expert guides and the team at Amplifier for making the Learning Journey come to life.

 

Take a look at this video that  captures some of the issues we covered, from the wild salmon runs to the transboundary mining industry:

Xboundary from Salmon Beyond Borders on Vimeo.