Community Corner: Council fosters pathways to engaged citizens

Photo of Betsi Oliver, outreach coordinator.

By Betsi Oliver
Outreach Coordinator

What makes the difference between youth who develop careers and other roles protecting our ecosystem versus those who don’t?

When youth develop a personal connection to the outdoors, an understanding of and interest in science, and civic engagement experience, they develop into young adults who are engaged, informed, and passionate.

In previous jobs I implemented youth education programs that were supported by the Council. As a mentor for the young participants, I saw that a web of interconnected experiences provides a strong foundation for their development. For a young person, finding a next step gives meaning to the fun field trip they did in elementary or middle school, turning it into their context for participating in Science Bowl, an internship, a volunteer effort, or an academic path.

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Community Corner: Devoted to the cause of safe oil transportation

Lisa Matlock

By Lisa Matlock
Outreach Coordinator

The Council is exceedingly lucky to have volunteers who spend precious time and provide invaluable expertise toward our mission, some of whom have volunteered for decades. Their dedication to the safe transportation of oil through Prince William Sound is both remarkable and essential to the Council’s mission.

Long-term volunteers can see projects through from beginning to end. They possess a unique perspective on how changes in the region’s prevention and response system have improved over the years. Long-term volunteers also help preserve the Council’s history, reminding us all of how, and why, our positions and policies have been shaped as they have over the years. Many examples of how these volunteers have influenced today’s Council are exemplified in their personal stories, especially those who have spent over 20 years working on behalf of the Council and its mission.

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Community Corner: Citizen scientists help the Council monitor our region

By Lisa Matlock, Outreach Coordinator

Lisa Matlock

One of the Council’s federal mandates involves environmental monitoring. With a small staff and vast geographic area, this monitoring takes many forms. Monitoring is often done by staff or contractors, but some monitoring takes place thanks to the Council’s volunteers and interns – all citizen scientists.

Since 2014, the Council has had high school interns in the community of Cordova who help monitor for aquatic invasive species. Three interns, Sarah Hoepfner, Cadi Moffitt, and currently Cori Pegau, have volunteered to hang sturdy plastic “settling plates” in the Cordova harbor each spring, to be picked up in the fall. The interns check the organisms that accumulate on the plate for critters such as invasive tunicates and bryozoans.

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

Matlock and Council volunteers Wayne Donaldson and Trent Dodson at the Kodiak ComFish, an annual commercial fishing conference.

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.

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