Alice Johnstone, one of our founders, remains an inspiring leader of our community and ardent conservationist. As Women’s History Month is drawing to a close, we want to highlight the important work that Alice has done for the community of Sitka. She and her husband Chuck joined forces with other Sitkans to create the Sitka Conservation Society in 1967, in an attempt to stop the clearcut logging that was destroying the forests they loved. Their dream was to get West Chichagof designated as a wilderness area before the mill could turn all of the trees to pulp. In 1980 after 13 years of pouring all their energy into this dream, it was realized and the West-Chichagof Yakobi Wilderness was created.
Despite her reputation as a conservationist in a pulp-mill town, Alice won election to the Sitka Assembly in 1979, only the second woman and first conservation voice on the assembly! She served three terms, for a total of seven years, and formed the Sitka Women’s Commission through her service.
Alice cares deeply for the health of the community of Sitka, and she poured her energy into combating substance abuse. She served on both the Sitka and State of Alaska treatment and prevention boards, working to promote the treatment and prevention of the disease of addiction through educational programs for the public and lawmakers. Alice volunteered on many other boards in Sitka — she gave her energy to make this place she loved better for everyone. She is known for the positive energy she brings to everything she does and everyone she meets.
In 2010, the environmental work Alice had begun almost forty years before was recognized by an organization that would have seemed the most unlikely of allies: the U.S. Forest Service. She received the Bob Marshall Champion of Wilderness Award in recognition for all the work she did to protect the wilderness of Southeast Alaska. This is not the only time Alice has been recognized for her achievements in the community — in 2015, she was inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame.
Alice left Sitka to be closer to family last year, but we continue to draw inspiration from her commitment to our community, especially in these difficult times. Now is the time for us all to stand up and lend whatever help we can. If you are interested in volunteering, please sign up with the Sitka Mutual Aid - Covid19 network.
We honor Alice’s legacy through the Living Wilderness Fund, an endowment to ensure the wilderness she worked to protect remains in perpetuity for the community of Sitka.