In Alaska, locally and traditionally harvested foods are key to sustaining the well-being of families, communities, and elders year-round. It is critical for Alaskan voices to be involved in the regulatory decisions that affect their way of life and the food they harvest to affirm food sovereignty now and into the future.

For over five years, Sitka Conservation Society has partnered with the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) Sitka Campus and the USDA Forest Service to increase public involvement in fish and wildlife regulatory processes through dual enrollment course offerings. In a place where many families and communities depend upon harvested foods, it is important for the voices of residents to be at the center of these state and federal processes. These courses provide an opportunity for students to enter the classroom and learn more about the management processes, then head to those decision-making spaces to participate.


For the spring 2023 course, students visited Anchorage for the Federal Subsistence Board meeting. This decision-making group oversees the management of subsistence use of fish, wildlife and other resources on federal lands and waters. SCS staff and adjunct professor Heather Bauscher and her co-instructors would share their insights about the meeting with the students. “We’re teaching students to navigate and think critically about the process, not to advocate in any direction,” says Bauscher.

Photo: 2023 spring class at the Federal Subsistence Board meeting (Lee House).

UAS Sitka has hosted this class since the start, with earlier versions being created and led by professors Jan Straley and Joel Markis. This version has expanded to include communities beyond Sitka, involving educators in teaching community members about the many different regulatory processes. Dr. Lauren Wild, Assistant Professor in Applied Fisheries at UAS Sitka, leads a fisheries policy version of the course. “These courses offer all Alaskans the chance to become better stewards and advocates,” says Dr. Wild. “It's inspiring to watch students engage in the process and bring their knowledge back to their communities.”


Photos by Rafe Hanson and Bethany Goodrich.

Reaching More Alaska Voices

Connecting Alaskan youth to management processes is vital to ensuring that the next generation of leaders and decision makers are learning to shape their voices to regulations that affect their home communities. In 2024, SCS supported the expansion of the UAS Policy and Procedures class to Hoonah with the goal of expanding the educational curriculum to more communities in the future. One Hoonah student who participated remotely shared, “I was born and raised in Hoonah, I have hunted, fished and foraged my whole life with my aunties, uncles, and parents. Taking this class opened my eyes to what is happening at these meetings, and how I'm able to be involved as a subsistence user.” Through expanding the reach of these classes, we are ensuring that the voices heard in these processes include the ones who know this place best.

As the students' participation over the years from this SCS and UAS joint program has continued to impress, per the recommendation of the Southeast Alaska Regional Advisory Committee, the USDA Forest Service has partnered with us to develop community workshops that we are taking all across Southeast Alaska, which has already included community workshops in Sitka, Craig, Petersburg, Pelican, Hydaburg, Saxman, Yakutat, Hoonah, Angoon, Metlakatla, Kake, Tenakee Springs, and Wrangell. Through these strong partnerships, we are providing more Alaskans opportunities to understand the process and learn the skills to navigate these management and regulatory systems.

To learn more about these programs read the past stories that have featured these classes: More than a Meeting: Bringing the Next Generation’s Voices to the Table and Youth Voices Reflect on the Federal Subsistence Board Process.

Photo: Students from Hoonah testifying at the 2023 Federal Subsistence Board meeting (Lee House).