Brittany Hales: Lifelong Alaskan and Conservationist
Brittany Hales was Trustees for Alaska’s Office and Communications Manager between 2012 and 2015. She made sure everything ran smoothly and drove our social media and website improvements. Read her story:
I am a first generation Alaskan, born and raised in Southcentral. I’ve always recognized that I am privileged to live in a place rampant with natural beauty, especially after having opportunities to see a bit of the rest of the world. My love of the natural world started from a young age, with my late mother instilling a great sense of environmentalism in me. Because of her, I was able to explore Alaska and gain a vital understanding of the need to protect it.
My mom moved to Alaska a few years before the oil boom; she experienced a less developed, wilder Alaska I will never know. When I look around the Anchorage area, I struggle to see the same features my mom described to me in great detail, like Northern Lights Boulevard being the main road in town, completely surrounded by forest on both sides. A drive down that same road today tells a much different story after several decades of development. Aerial photography of my neighborhood from before and after the oil boom is also telling. Thirty years ago there was black spruce forest bordering the Western stretch of the Far North Bicentennial Park. That plat of land became developed land for housing, where my house and hundreds of other houses now sit.
Growing up in Alaska, I imagine, is like growing up in any region where industry is natural-resource-extraction-focused (think Appalachia and the coal industry). Presentations from the oil companies in school were not uncommon. As a result of winning first place in the Alaska State Science and Engineering Fair in high school, one of the oil companies on the North Slope flew me up to Deadhorse, Alaska, where I toured and stayed in one of the company’s oilfield camps. Looking back, I realize that was an opportunity for the company to recruit. Similarly, the universities here have received a ton of funding from these entities, so attending class in the BP Science Lab or the VECO Room was normal. All of my life, one thing has been clear about Alaska: the oil and other resource extraction companies have a detrimental impact on the environment. But what was even clearer to me was that I did not want to contribute to that. My desire to protect Alaska has juxtaposed my work with those development pressures.
When it came time for college, I knew that I wanted to pursue a degree that could help protect Alaska’s wild places. I went to Alaska Pacific University and received my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy and Planning. I wanted to have an impact and to protect the land I call home.
Throughout my childhood and college years I continually heard wonderful things about the nonprofit, public-interest environmental law firm, Trustees for Alaska. They were the ones making a difference for Alaska’s places and people. They were the protectors and defenders of my home state. I had admired their work for many years, so when I saw a position open, I went for it. I had long considered Trustees my “dream organization” and was so excited to be hired.
I am fortunate to work with some of Alaska’s most dedicated defenders: the public-interest attorneys and staff who work tirelessly to make sure that Alaska’s natural environment is protected and that the wild places stay wild.