The gift of good guidance: Alaska News Brief July 2022
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The gift of good guidance: Alaska News Brief July 2022

Summer officially runs from summer solstice on June 21 to the fall equinox on September 22, but in Alaska it feels more fleeting. Already, it seems half gone.

Fireweed and bumblebee. Photo By Donald Blank

Maybe it’s because the changes in light feel palpable, and plant and garden growth comes so fast you can hardly keep up.

Salmon runs suddenly get hot and then quickly wane; berries get plump and within weeks picked over by bears and dogs and humans; shorts and t-shirt days feel almost oppressive when coupled with wildfire smoke and no wind, yet will soon give way to the first frost.

The last four years with Trustees feels the same way, honestly–as if so much happened so quickly and yet still so much lingers at a maddening tipping point as we strive for a future where our communities are heard and we heed what the planet tells us.

This sense of time and change as fast and slow, chaotic and never ending—the way we feel it viscerally—reminds me to reflect on what has happened, what’s still happening, and to remember our purpose and role at Trustees, and our commitment to learning and growing from our experiences and relationships.

Feedback from folks we work with helps us maintain perspective and focus, regardless of how time feels at any given moment.

Since creating our 2017-2020 strategic plan, we instituted a process for a consultant to do client/partner surveys and interviews every other year. This process helps us ensure the cohesion between Trustees’ strategic plan, our pathway for change, our guiding principles and the implications of our collective work for the future.

It also means we can’t ever stray far from the needs of our clients. After all, they’re the reason for our work.

Today I want to share some of the results from the most recent survey data and interviews. It’s clear that our clients understand the importance of litigation and policy development in our shared work.

Not to get too much in the weeds, but 87 percent of clients who responded to the survey between February and April 2022 found Trustees to be doing very well in meeting its mission, and 13 percent said that Trustees was doing well.

Fog, water, and fireweed. Photo by Donald Blank

As with prior survey results, clients were again eager to have even more of Trustees’ proactive, robust and strategic thinking, and more capacity for visioning, creativity, and making the future we want. They also noted a desire for more Indigenous voices and leadership in campaigns.

Some clients said they want to see improved alignment and communication between Trustees and Earthjustice. We are two public interest environmental law firms working within the same coalitions. We hear this concern and have begun more direct dialogue with Earthjustice.

We also learned that all of the interviewees considered Trustees vital during the pandemic, a time when political and policy actions were taking place at rapid pace, despite people and communities coping with COVID’s impacts and not having the ability to as easily engage.  

Generally, clients said that Trustees plays its most effective role litigating cases to protect environmental values and public participation; providing assistance in administrative review of agency decisions and permitting; and working with coalitions and campaigns.

They listed our key strengths as:

  1. Trust
  2. The integrity, passion and intelligence of our staff
  3. Trustees’ leadership
  4. That we are Alaska-based
  5. That we have strategic and effective impact

Here’s one quote that stood out in particular for me: “A big part of surviving the Trump Administration was the passion and dedication of Trustees’ staff who were going after the Administration. They really kept me going when I was ready to throw in the towel. They fought for all they were worth.”

The input of clients and partners puts the pace of the last years into perspective while gifting us with clarity and focus about what we should keep doing, what we should address, and where we can fill some gaps.

We are a small nonprofit and we accomplish so much. It makes me proud to hear directly from those who benefit from our services that we are so valued and respected—and that they respect and value us enough to tell us where and how we need to change. We take the praise and constructive feedback to heart and will always strive to meet expectations.

Though time seems to fly, move in slow motion and stop all at once, we know what we need to do next.  We’re not quite like bears that know to get fat or salmon that know to spawn, but we do know the importance of cycles and nourishment. Hearing from those we work with every couple of years certainly gives us that.

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

We’ve moved! We finally moved into our new office and look forward to welcoming you there soon. Find us at 121 W Fireweed Lane, Ste. 105 Anchorage, AK 99503.

Photo by Kim Mincer, BLM

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Photo courtesy Erica Watson, the Northern Center.

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Ashley at her parents' house in Texas. Photo by Ashley
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