Why do I do this work?
Trustees staff talk about why they defend Alaska
Katie Strong, staff attorney
Growing up on the shores of Lake Superior gave me a deep appreciation of wild places and the animals that reside in them. It seemed natural to pursue graduate studies in environmental policy, and I wrote my master’s thesis on the history of wilderness protection. It wasn’t a far leap to decide to devote my career to protecting wilderness myself.
Getting to do so in Alaska — where we have some of the world’s largest, most vibrant wilderness areas — is such a privilege. Getting to visit those places makes it all the better. I’m proud to be part of Trustees and to do my part to protect Alaska’s lands, wildlife, and way of life.
Raven and Chewy, helper dogs
It took a while for Chewy and Raven to adjust to office culture, but even the meetings got easier when there were treats involved. Here’s what our newest Trustees members have to say about the work they do.
Getting a “ruff” start at Trustees
Chewy and Raven just joined the Trustees for Alaska gang last month. Staff Attorney Michelle Sinnott adopted these two 6-month old siblings from a local rescue group. After about a month at Trustees we caught up with these two new team members to see how work in the non-profit environmental protection field was going.
“We’ll we are still getting the hang of office life,” said Raven. “The humans always forget to invite us to the office meetings. Then we have to talk really loud from down the hall so that they can hear all of our great advice and input. I think it’s important to tell them what we think. We’re part of the team too ya know.”
Impressed with the dog-friendly office vibe
As for Chewy, he’s impressed with the office vibe. “They have really comfortable chairs. I could sit and listen to Michelle talk about mining regulations all day.”
Chewy and Raven are still learning about all the work that Trustees does, but they are dedicated to it. For Raven, clean water is paramount: “Trustees’ fights for things like clean water. I mean, nobody likes yellow snow.” Raven also helps Michelle with her work opposing the proposed Pebble Mine. “I still don’t understand how pebble’s hurt the water, but I like salmon. And Michelle says this pebble mine will be bad for salmon. I like that we are working to save salmon.”
“I like birds,” said Chewy. “Oh, and sticks! Sticks are great! Trustees works really hard to make sure there are lots of places with birds and sticks.” Chewy also likes that Trustees works to save predators. “Wolves and bears are friends, and we should be nice to them too.”
The fury pair knows that this line of work doesn’t always result in victories, but Chewy has a game plan. “I ate the phone. That way Michelle can’t get the bad news.” Raven just shook her head. “Chewy isn’t familiar with email or social media.” Chewy immediately started thinking about how he could eat the internet.
Chewy and Raven aren’t quite sure how they lucked out and landed a coveted helper dog position at Trustees, but they are looking to make a difference. “Just this past week we helped Michelle with a brief. It was way too long so we ate a few pages,” said Raven. “We made it better.” Chewy isn’t as confident yet, “I’m pretty sure we got this gig because of our looks.” Either way, these two are here to stay. Before too long they might even start giving legal advice. In the meantime, they have embraced their role as encouragers of fun. “We already have a big voice at Trustees, particularly when it comes to getting outside.”
I came to work at Trustees for Alaska because I feel passionately about keeping Alaska wild, and I’d like to do my part to combat climate change. Since then, I’ve learned so much about the other important issues that Trustees works on, and I’m proud to work for such a great organization.
Why does Della work at Trustees?
Because her happy place is in the mountains with her packs on. She loves sleeping in a tent, drinking from rivers, eating berries right off the bush, rolling in the snow, and smelling all the smells in the forest. Her role? To support the work of attorney Brook Brisson.
Prior to working at Trustees, I was a full time nature photographer. The wildlife I viewed over the last few years inspired me to return to the legal profession to fight for these wonderful creatures and retain their place in the last great place on earth.
First I saw the wolves, two of them with pups in tow, big enough to learn to hunt. I watched them run down a caribou in a clearing a football field away from me. I was on a Kantishna-bound bus in Denali National Park. A little while later, a huge brown bear showed up, running off the wolves that paced nearby. Shortly after, a second brown bear arrived, this one smaller than the first, but daring. Within minutes, the bears got into it, tumbling their way off a 15-foot cliff. I could hear their snarling. The bigger bear emerged to reclaim his prize, while the wolves circled and plotted their revenge.
This was one of the most spectacular sights I’ve ever seen, yet witnessing this kind of wildlife encounter is becoming rarer in Alaska, in part due to the State’s aggressive predator control practices. I do the work I do because I love Alaska’s wildlife and wild lands, and I want future generations to have the opportunity to experience the feelings of awe and wonder I felt that day in Denali.
Because of the light on the mountains at sunset, the call of the common loon, the smell of the forest after a snow storm, the sweetness of blueberries plucked from the bush, the fuzzy caribou noses.
I grew up in the 1970s and 80s watching my city, Pittsburgh bottom out from its industrial heyday. The skies were no longer sooty but the rivers were still polluted. The city had no future in sight and lacked the promise it holds today. I fell in love with the land and wildlife when I want west to law school. I have been doing all I can to protect these places and animals ever since. As a lawyer, I have gone to court to keep beautiful old growth trees standing. I have protected critical habitat for prairie dogs and primrose. I have helped clients fight for the health of salmon and beluga whales. I’ve fought hard rock and coal mines because they scar the landscape and pollute our air and water. I work at Trustees because each day is an opportunity to do good, and to protect the rivers, the land, the wildlife and the beauty that is Alaska.
Find out more how Brian went from the once-polluted skies of Pittsburgh to pristine Alaska.
This third rock from the sun is our one true home. But it has its limits. All of the species on the planet need clean air, clean water, and places to thrive and renew. Everything and everybody is connected and everything we do has consequences not only for us, but for others. I do this work because I must act within my communities to ensure a healthy planet and help people understand why that is so important. I do it in Alaska because this place inspires beauty and wildness. And I do it because it
matters for me, my communities, and for future generations on this planet we call home.
Find out more about Vicki in her blog about going from marine biology to environmental advocacy.
Read about her trip to Barter Island to see and learn about polar bears.