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In Mr. William's Op-ed piece on Sept. 16, he takes environmentalists to task for raising money from outside Alaska to fund environmental protection and conservation in Alaska. I am glad he pointed out that much of the money is distributed by the Alaska Conservation Foundation (ACF). People must be reading our annual report! As an ACF trustee, I feel it is a good thing that this money is being managed by an Alaska organization. ACF is staffed by Alaskans, governed by Alaskans (with a minority of national trustees), for the purpose of making grants to Alaska communities and organizations. Instead of having outside interests dictating the agenda, Alaskans determine the issues, we help support the groups, and help foster strategies that further our mutual goal of a healthy environment and a sustainable Alaska economy. At election time it seems there is always an attempt to foster caricatures of conservationists in Alaska as puppets of national environmental groups. In the case of ACF, this dog won't hunt.
To turn the spotlight around, it would be naive to think that all the lobbying money for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, or clear-cutting on the Tongass National Forest, is coming from the pockets of individual Alaskans. With most of the land in Alaska federal land, or, national interest land, it is legitimate for individuals and businesses outside of the state to have an interest in what goes on here. If these people choose to contribute money, on either side of the issue, that's certainly their right. ACF has been successful in raising funds to promote conservation and sustainable communities in Alaska, but it pales beside the financial resources that multi-national industries have at their disposal.
ACF believes a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand. This is a vision shared by many Alaskans and many folks Outside. They are glad ACF is based here supporting the work that needs to be done. Decisions for the future are best made by encouraging many legitimate viewpoints. I thank Mr. Williams for the chance to highlight the Alaska Conservation Foundation's role is supporting the debate over the use of Alaska's environment.