So long and thanks to all the whales! Alaska News Brief February 2024
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So long and thanks to all the whales! Alaska News Brief February 2024

By the time you read this, I’ll have already celebrated carnival in Dominica and am probably now swimming with whales, or at least sharks, barracudas and smaller underwater creatures.

Woot woot!!!

What a joy and honor to swim in big water with whales and all the marine critters that share the world—and a part of the world that we know so little about! What a blessing to know I can enjoy this life experience because of the support of so many amazing people who share the work and will carry mine for a while! Where should I start?

Vicki’s dog Jasper is not so excited that she’s gone. Photo by Dawnell

I first want to celebrate the Trustees team. They have so much commitment and wisdom, and have worked so hard and resolutely for years now, with several cases heating up over the last few months and more around the corner. Our lawyers just argued two cases in the Ninth Circuit last week, one on our challenge to the Biden administration’s approval of the Willow oil and gas project and the other challenging a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulation that lets oil operators disturb and harass Beaufort Sea polar bears. (Read more in this newsletter.)

Though we always know when we bring a case on behalf of our clients, we will join them in a long journey of briefing, replying, arguing in court, waiting, getting a court ruling, possibly arguing in an appeal, and then cycling through agency and legal processes again. It can feel like running on a hamster wheel or being a character in Groundhog Day or Palm Springs where you can’t escape living the same day over and again, however absurd the events of that day. How is it we’re still fighting to protect polar bears and massive new extraction projects when the tangible reality of biodiversity loss and climate destruction on the ground has become more profoundly apparent and dire for more people?

What I see with Trustees, though, is remarkable support for each other. I see friendship and pride. I see commitment to what we’re trying to do together, and also to how we do it together. I am so proud of Trustees because every person makes it possible and recognizes that. And we continue to get better after 50 years!

But Jasper is very grateful for “greenie” Thursday! Photo by Dawnell

We also work with an amazing board of directors, all volunteers bringing their whole selves into hard conversations and decisions. I am so thankful to the board for trusting me and providing guidance to sustain our organization now and for decades to come—and for supporting our sabbatical policy.

In January, we welcomed two new board members to Trustees, Margaret Williams and Leonard Steinberg. Leonard worked for Alaska Communications as in-house counsel and upper-level management, and was the executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council in the 1980’s. Margaret worked with the World Wildlife Fund on Arctic issues before retiring. She is now doing a fellowship year at Harvard and recently received the Olaus Murie award for her work from the Alaska Conservation Foundation in October 2023.

We are so thankful to them for joining us. They have always been tremendous advocates for Alaska and will continue to do so as members of a board with people of vast and varied experiences, but who all have a deep conviction and sense of purpose when it comes to keeping Trustees strong.

As I swim with whales, I also glide through the gratitude I have for all of my friends, colleagues, clients, and the people who keep doing the work and giving each other time and space to remember what’s at stake. I am going to be present with the ocean—a place I would inhabit if I had gills—to refill and renew my energy with all the beings who live alongside us and share their knowledge when we listen.

So, for the next few months my friend and colleague Teresa Clemmer, our legal director, will stay in touch, keep you up to date, and share her wisdom. She knows the cases, the issues, and Trustees’ role and impact. Trustees is in good hands.

No doubt, I’ll have new stories to tell when I return. Until then, I’m jumping back in.

So long and thanks to all the whales for hosting me for a while!

One, two, three—engage, support, and act—to help us blow out the candles on our 50th birthday cake!


PS. Thanks to supporters like you, we can continue fighting to protect Alaska’s land, water, air, wildlife and people.


Trustees with clients at the Willow appeal argument in the 9th Circuit Court Feb. 5, 2024.

Getting in the zone and what’s next on Willow and regulations allowing harassment of polar bears

Photos of Tracy with friend while in her nanny role in D.C.

Drinks with Devo. Tracy makes good choices

Trustees 50th series: The first decade

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