Davin Holen: Social scientist uses knowledge of subsistence fisheries to help communities adapt to changing environments

At 17, Davin Holen left his home in the woods outside of Wasilla, Alaska, to travel the world. He lived and studied in South America and Europe for several years before joining the Peace Corps, where he ended up in Mali, West Africa, living in a small mud hut on the edge of the Sierra Desert with his wife, Cara. “No running water, no electricity. It was like camping in the desert for two and a half years,” Holen says. Holen’s experience in Africa sparked a curiosity about human culture that has turned into his life’s work. “I was really interested in people’s interactions with the environment, especially in a subsistence economy.” He realized that even though he grew up in Alaska, he did not know much about the cultures in his home state. He returned from Africa and enrolled in the Master’s program at the University of Alaska Anchorage in Applied Cultural Anthropology. The department was brand new, and Holen was its first graduate. After earning his degree, he went to work for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Subsistence, working his way up from an internship to program manager over 15 years. Holen assessed subsistence harvests all over the state, from Southeast Alaska to the Arctic. He tried to understand and document these fisheries, in order to anticipate problems that could arise, so he could find ways to address upcoming expected needs. Print PDF … Continue reading

Community Corner: Local government is an important conduit for sharing information and concerns

By Lisa Matlock Outreach Coordinator The Council’s staff and volunteers have visited with many Southcentral Alaska city councils and managers, tribal councils, borough assemblies, and state legislators this year. The upcoming marine services contract for tug and barge services in Prince William Sound will soon change, and this event alone has driven a great deal of interest in the Council’s mission from communities all over the Exxon Valdez oil spill region. There have also been oil spill planning policy changes that could affect communities, about which the Council has helped share information. Local government continues to be one of the most important places for the Council to focus on issues that require public comment and scoping. Policy changes regarding community access to decision-makers, a new chemical dispersant use plan for Alaska that includes a preauthorized zone, and upcoming geographical changes to oil spill planning are just a few of the important policies that communities have had the chance to weigh in on this year. Often these issues are technical enough that local RCACs and governments may be a citizen’s ultimate voice for commenting on the issue. Local governments work regularly with permitting issues and zoning that lend themselves to commenting about similar policy changes the Council tackles in the oil spill prevention and response world. Print PDF … Continue reading

From the Executive Director: Citizens and partnerships in the safe transportation of oil

Donna Schantz is the executive director of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council. March 24, 2017, marked the 28th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Each anniversary is a time for reflection on how far we have come, as well as how much there is left to do. It is also a time to recognize the efforts of those who used the lessons of the Exxon Valdez to advocate for safeguards to ensure nothing like it ever happens again. Thanks to the foresight, vigilance, and tireless efforts of elected officials, government regulators, industry, and citizens, the oil spill prevention and response system now in place in Prince William Sound is an example to the rest of the world. A big part of the success in Prince William Sound is that all these partners work together. We all share one goal: to promote the safe transportation of oil. While every partner has played a vital role in the success in Prince William Sound, special recognition is warranted to honor past and current technical committee and board members of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council. Our volunteers have put in countless unpaid hours dedicated to the mission of our organization. Congress found that complacency on the part of industry and government personnel responsible for monitoring the operation of the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated oil tanker traffic in Prince William Sound was a major contributing factor to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. To combat this complacency, Congress established two regional citizens’ advisory councils, ours in Prince William Sound and another in Cook Inlet, to involve citizens in an environmental oversight and monitoring. Neither council could satisfy the provisions under this federal mandate without dedicated volunteers from throughout their respective regions. Print PDF … Continue reading