I was recently asked where I would suggest donating money to further conservation in Alaska. I had some ideas, but I decided to ask several professional conservationist about where they thought conservation dollars might be best spent. Acknowledging that conservation is a multi-faceted issue, there was agreement that funding a variety of approaches was important. There was also some consensus that local organizations are often most effective, though they can also been seen as ineffective because of their small size.
Unfortunately legal battles seem to be an important part of conserving Alaska’s biological and wilderness values. Several of those I queried recommended Earthjustice as an efficient and important organization.
If you think that direct conservation of important properties is the most effective form of conservation then organizations like the Trust for Public Land, Interior Alaska Land Trust and Great Land Trust should be considered.
In terms of political advocacy, there was less consensus but several important organizations quickly came to the fore. The Sierra Club was praised for its wide reach and enormous membership. Alaska Wilderness League was suggested for its long track record of influence in Washington. Here in Fairbanks we value the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. It is the only local voice we have for conservation and plays an important role.
Personally I would suggest that education is the most important aspect of conservation. And this is where the small and local organizations really shine. Getting people of all ages out on the land, whether this is in the Brooks Range or in the city park is vital to developing a constituency for natural areas. I would like to think that Arctic Wild plays a small role in encouraging conservation by immersing people in the worlds greatest wilderness. I also know that small wilderness summer camps can make a lasting impression on young people. I would imagine that there are some good environmental education programs near you.
Please consider donating to conservation causes in Alaska or in your own state.