Taking heart from the wild

Landmark laws protect clean water and air, public lands, wildlife and wilderness

Aug 14, 2017

Kat, Catherine and Hannah finished their summer internships with Trustees, but they wrote their reflections on what they learned and accomplished, both in the office and in the wilderness. Here, Kat talks about taking heart from the wild and learning the power of landmark environmental laws. Find out about how she went from the greenbelt to the mountain top this summer, too. 

Dave and Kat taking heart in the wild during a sunny bike ride from Anchorage to Girdwood.

Dave and Kat take a selfie break during an August bike ride to Girdwood.

My summer internship at Trustees for Alaska has been an unparalleled experience. I have had the opportunity to gain valuable training and experience in public interest environmental law. I also explored a small part of Alaska’s vast and beautiful wilderness.

A meaningful look at the issues

The highlight of the summer has been engaging on the issues that matter most to me. My research projects have covered topics ranging from the proposed Pebble mine in Bristol Bay, to oil and gas development in the National Petroleum Reserve on Alaska’s North Slope, to the proposed land exchange and road project in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in the remote Aleutian Islands.

Hiking and biking into wilderness inspire taking heart in the wild. Here, train tracks reach toward a blue sky along Turnagain Arm.

Turnagain Arm train tracks. Courtesy Kat Henrichs.

I have had the opportunity to conduct in-depth legal research, participate in client calls and legal strategy meetings, and hone my legal writing skills. I’ve benefitted immensely from the excellent mentorship and training that Trustees provides and the opportunities to connect with other legal and environmental interns in the Anchorage area.

The power of landmark environmental laws

Another highlight has been developing my familiarity with our country’s landmark environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. These laws are powerful tools for defending and protecting the ecological systems that sustain us.

As climate change and global population growth place ever-greater demands on the planet’s sensitive natural systems, scientifically sound environmental management backed by a legal system with a long-term perspective is becoming increasingly important.

Taking heart from the wild means helping preserve it
A squirrel peers over a trail head sign along Turnagain Arm, Alaska.

The gateway to the wild. Courtesy Kat Henrichs.

Writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau said, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” To me, this means that on a fundamental level, each of us benefits from clean air and water, open spaces, and the opportunity to recreate and relax in places untouched by modern civilization.

In wildness is our preservation, and each of us must contribute to the work of sustaining what sustains us.

Seeing Alaska means experiencing enormity
Kat and Dave take a photo with the Turnagain Arm mudflats and blue skies behind them.

Kat and Dave taking heart in the wild mudflats. Courtesy Kat Henrichs.

I haven’t had the opportunity to visit the places I worked to protect while in Alaska this summer, but I did visit many other special and unique parts of the state.

I have spent my weekends backpacking to Williwaw Lakes, Lost Lake, and most recently to the Crow Pass trail where I hiked from end to end.  I visited Homer and Seward, and day-hiked and cycled all around Anchorage.

My most exciting adventure was summiting Mt. Williwaw — a 12-hour, 18-mile day hike and rock scramble to the highest peak in the Chugach Range just west of Ship Creek.

Kat with her backpack riding on the trail beside the Seward Highway.

Kat riding the paved trail along the Seward Highway. Courtesy Kat Henrichs.

Along the way, I saw brown and black bears, river and sea otters, bald eagles, a great horned owl, a beaver, herds of Dahl sheep, and more moose than I can count. Before returning home, I will head to Denali National Park for a multi-day backcountry trip, where I will see more wildlife and wilderness.

Advocate for human rights and the wild

My summer with Trustees for Alaska has exceeded my expectations in every way. I will carry these experiences forward with me throughout my career as a public interest attorney and advocate for the environment and human rights.

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