About the Northern Center

Our Mission

The Northern Alaska Environmental Center promotes conservation of the environment and sustainable resource stewardship in Interior and Arctic Alaska through education and advocacy.

Our Vision

 

We envision a Northern Alaska far into the future that remains a land of superlatives—as inspiring, healthy and supremely beautiful as it is today. Our globally important wildlands will remain biologically diverse and productive, with abundant fish and wildlife that support vigorous subsistence traditions and an extraordinary, increasingly sustainable quality of life for Alaskans.

Alaskans will maintain these enviable qualities undiminished across generations by protecting our vast expanses of ecologically intact habitat, by shifting our economy toward sustainable use of renewable resources, and through careful stewardship of non-renewables. We thrive by respecting environmental carrying capacity, thereby safeguarding the rich natural environment that has supported Alaskans for over ten thousand years.

We envision a Northern Alaska Environmental Center that plays a leading role in achieving this promising future through strong grassroots organizing, defensive work, exploring solutions, and by building broad coalitions that translate Alaskans’ passion for our home into an environmentally and culturally sustainable future.

Laramie Maxwell Ardissono

Laramie Maxwell Ardissono

President

Laramie Maxwell Ardissono is a Wyoming native who has more recently embraced life in interior Alaska. She is an environmental consultant whose current role is primarily as a Conservation Associate for the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, based in Bozeman, Montana, where she works on environmental policy with a focus on the ecology of roads and land management planning. Beyond being a passionate conservationist, Laramie loves to spend time riding her horse, Wally, paddling the rivers of the interior, and biking and hiking with her dog, Liberty.

Nick Clarke

Nick Clarke

Vice President

Having a lifelong passion for protecting wild places, Nick is thrilled to help advance the Northern Alaska Environmental Center’s mission as a board member. He is forever grateful for his life changing experiences in Alaska, including those resulting from six trips into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A few highlights include spending days sharing the land with the Porcupine Caribou herd during their annual migration, observing muskoxen, and numerous interactions with grizzly bears.

He currently works for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative where he leads projects to conserve important lands for connectivity, reduce collisions with wildlife on highways, and prevent grizzly bear conflicts in Montana. Nick worked previously with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s Lands Unit working to advance land conservation.

Nick lives in Helena, Montana with his wife Kaelyn and canine best friend Millie. He spends his free time exploring wild places, taking photos, floating rivers, traveling, and dreaming of his next trip to Alaska.

Shannon Busby

Shannon Busby

Board Member

Shannon came to Alaska in 2010 to work as a field biologist and quickly fell in love with the land and lifestyle of the north. From skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking in the winter, to collecting edible and medicinal plants, backpacking, and packrafting in the summer; she spends as much time as possible outside in the boreal forest and tundra. After completing her master’s degree in natural resource management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, studying ethnobotany she started her own nature guiding business. Shannon also works with a nationwide project to inventory Alaska’s forests. She is passionate about fostering connection to place and sharing the joy and sense of wonder that can be found when you disconnect and step outside.

Paul Reichardt

Paul Reichardt

Treasurer

Paul grew up in Missouri, where his interest in and commitment to conservation issues had their genesis in childhood experiences in the hills and streams of the Ozarks.  Life took him to many places, including a visit to Alaska with his wife Terry in 1971.  A year later a dream came true, and they moved to Fairbanks where Paul began a career as a chemistry professor and administrator at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  He retired in 2007, and he and Terry still live in the Goldstream Valley outside of Fairbanks.

Paul’s connection to the Alaskan environment has been two-fold.  As a researcher, over a period of about twenty years, he and a team of colleagues explored and described the role that plant-produced defensive chemicals play in the environments of Alaska and other northern lands.  As an activist, he has had a nearly five-decade involvement with the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, including previous service on its board and as Interim Executive Director.

For Paul, Alaska hasn’t just been a place to live.  It has been a way of life, one which he wants to pass on to future generations.  His involvement with the Northern Center is one way in which he works to make that happen.

Helen Chmura

Helen Chmura

Secretary

Helen credits her Grandmom for her first experiences in nature and has built her professional and personal life around the out-of-doors ever since. After studying Biology at Swarthmore College, she traveled to and learned from mountain communities experiencing climate change on a Watson Fellowship and worked for National Wildlife Federation on climate change adaptation science and policy. Helen fell in love with Northern Alaska in 2012 studying migratory birds on the North Slope. For her Ph.D. (University of California, Davis) and in her current job as a postdoctoral fellow at University of Alaska Fairbanks, she has studied how the seasonal biology of Alaskan animals is affected by climate change. When not in the field or lab, Helen can be found exploring local trails with her skijoring buddy, Annie the dog, or plotting her next backpacking trip in the Brooks Range.

Our Staff

Elisabeth Balster Dabney

Elisabeth Balster Dabney

Interim Executive Director

Elisabeth is a life-long Alaskan, a settler on the traditional lands of the Lower Tanana Dené Peoples. An historian by training and literary agent and editor, Elisabeth is seeking better ways to do conservation education and advocacy that respects the traditional lifeways of Alaska’s Indigenous Peoples and keeps Alaska’s vibrant and thriving ecosystems intact for future generations. Elisabeth lives in west Trothheet (Fairbanks, AK) with her partner and two elementary-aged children. Elisabeth enjoys re-discovering the outdoor world through the experiences of her young children, knitting, sewing, and reading.

Alex Petkanas

Alex Petkanas

Alex grew up in the northeast, spending a lot of time in the Adirondacks and on lakes in New York and Connecticut. They worked in public policy and communications before studying at Brooklyn Law School, where they met their partner who grew up in Alaska. After “visiting” for a month in 2020, Alex fell in love with the land and has been here since.

Alex is excited to be a part of the Northern Center team and learn more about conservation that centers Indigenous practices and leadership. Outside of the office, Alex can be found hiking, biking, walking their dog, or working on a small-scale organic vegetable farm in Palmer.

Sarah Frampton

Sarah Frampton

Director of Finance and Operations

Sarah is originally from Utah where she loved the snow, sun, and outdoors. She moved to Fairbanks about 10 years ago and worked in public accounting for a few years before leaving to start a family. Her three elementary-aged kids keep her on her toes.

During her time home with family, Sarah served on non-profit boards for Team Alaska Arctic Winter Games and the Fairbanks Community Band. She loves being involved and volunteering in the Fairbanks community, including helping at her kids’ school. Sarah believes that all boats rise with the tide and tries to lift others where she can.

Sarah studied accounting and economics at Westminster College in Salt Lake City Utah, where she earned a bachelors in accounting, then continued on to earn a Masters of Business Administration with an emphasis in international business and marketing. She is also a licensed CPA in the State of Alaska.

When she’s not working, Sarah enjoys spending time outdoors during all seasons. She loves skiing, snowboarding, hiking, camping and exploring Alaska with her family.

Katie McClellan

Katie McClellan

Clean Waters and Mining Coordinator

Katie grew up on the east coast and first came to Alaska to work in Denali National Park in 2014. One season became many as she worked as a guide and a science educator, helping visitors from around the world explore and connect with the park’s incredible wildlife and landscapes. When she decided to make Alaska her permanent home, her love of Interior Alaska’s landscapes and strong community led her to Fairbanks. Since then, Katie has applied her academic background in Geoenvironmental Studies and experience in public engagement to environmental outreach and habitat restoration in Interior Alaska through community projects, education programs, and collaboration with federal agencies, non-profits, and private stakeholders. She is jazzed to learn from and work alongside the many passionate environmental advocates throughout the state, and use her skills and enthusiasm to advance the health and protection of the lands, waters, wildlife, and people of Interior and Northern Alaska.

Outside of the office, you’ll find Katie trail-running, biking, camping, flying with her partner, volunteering with water-resource groups, and sharing snacks with her dogs and friends outside.

Scott Fogarty

Scott Fogarty

Senior Advisor

Scott Fogarty has dedicated his professional life to environmental protection and enhancement. For 25 years he served as non-profit Executive Director for both Friends of Trees and the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center. Prior to that Scott was a Project Director for the US Environmental Protection Agency in the Office of Water and was a Public Interest Attorney in West Virginia. Scott has served on many Board of Directors including the Human Access Project, Sandy River Watershed Council, Willamette Riverkeeper, Grey Family Foundation Facilities Board, Opal Creek Federal Advisory Board, and the Multnomah County Public Health Board. He holds a J.D. and an M.A. from West Virginia University and a B.A. from Santa Clara University. He joined the Northern Center in 2021.

Scott loves local breweries, traveling the world, camping and skiing with his daughters and wife, whitewater kayaking, surfing, rugby, gardening, and the arts. He recently completed a solo motorcycle journey around Mongolia where he went from the Altai Mountains to the Gobi desert in search of the meaning of life (still looking).

Lois Barger

Lois Barger

Office Manager

Emily Sullivan

Emily Sullivan

Communications Director

Emily came to Alaska in 2010 as an artist, planning to spend one summer exploring and photographing its dreamy landscapes. She immediately fell in love with the state and subsequently spent nine seasons working as a naturalist guide in Denali National Park. Emily‘s intimacy with the subarctic ecosystem and her human-powered trips across Alaska’s diverse landscapes inspired her freelance writing, photography, and ultimately, a career in conservation. Emily is passionate about climate action and believes in a just and holistic approach to restoring and protecting healthy ecosystems. Her particular passions for the Arctic and for social and environmental justice fuel her advocacy. Outside the office, Emily can be found in the mountains: her favorite days are spent traveling long distances on skis, trail running, packrafting, or picking berries and identifying flowers.

Christin Swearingen

Christin Swearingen

Events & Development Coordinator

Christin’s conservation ethic came from a childhood in Death Valley National Park, where each living thing is beautifully offset from each other by negative space of sand and rock. She fell in love with the contrasting riot of life in the boreal forest of Interior Alaska, especially with the diverse and beautiful mushrooms that appear each fall. Christin studied Biology and Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, and TA’d mycology while earning a master’s in Natural Resources at UAF. Events and development is her newfound passion, but she can still be found teaching mycology and volunteering for the national nonprofit Fungal Diversity Survey in her spore time. She enjoys hiking, dancing, photographing mushrooms, cooking, and foraging.

Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic Staff

Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic (SILA) is supported by the Northern Center.
Visit SILA’s website here. 

Siqiñiq Maupin

Siqiñiq Maupin

Co-founder & Director

Siqiñiq Maupin is an Iñupiaq mother of two kids and three dogs. She is the co-founder and current director of Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic (SILA) that strives to create wellness within Iñupiat communities. They are in their senior year of their B.A. in the Alaska Native Studies program with a concentration in Alaska Native Languages. She is a contemporary Iñupiat artist, mental health advocate, and dog lover. She spends most of her summers and free time on the land learning traditional Iñupiat ways of living with her children that she incorporates into her work and everyday life. Her main focus and passion is eliminating toxins and pollutants to create better air quality and access to clean water for all beings. 

Our History

Since 1971 the Northern Alaska Environmental Center (Northern Center) has employed grassroots activism, legislative advocacy, legal intervention, and public education to protect the ecological integrity of public lands in Northern Alaska. The Northern Center advocates for a more responsible and sustainable approach to resource development on subarctic and arctic wildlands and the surrounding seas, and addresses environmental issues that impact Alaskans’ quality of life.

Alaska’s Interior and Arctic encompass an immense area from Canada to the Bering Strait; from the Alaska Range to the Beaufort Sea. Here lie storied landscapes of unspoiled grandeur, vast boreal forests, remote mountain ranges, intricate coastline, and countless lakes and free-flowing rivers. Abundant fish and wildlife grace this land in complete, natural communities, the likes of which have all but vanished elsewhere in our nation. Precious in their own right, these wildlands and wildlife also support many Alaska communities where contemporary and traditional subsistence pursuits are a way of life.

This severe, fragile and unique state comprises the largest and most intact ecosystems remaining in the United States. But it is also vulnerable—poised on the brink of rapid anthropogenic change. Today, a warming climate and a growing global appetite for natural resources threatens these northern ecosystems and human communities. New fossil fuel exploitation, industrialization, mining, and related infrastructure such as roads and pipelines, as well as a growing human population will further compound these effects inside Alaska, whereas the ultimate consequences of exporting the huge stores of coal, oil, and gas beneath Alaska soils will continue to have harmful climatic effects on a global scale. Slowing the rate of change and protecting intact ecosystems and habitat are essential to preserve the timeless value of our Nation’s largest remaining wildlands, to mitigate the impact of climate change, and to allow natural and human communities to adapt to the changing environment.

The Northern Center has worked for over forty years to defend and sustain northern Alaska’s priceless natural heritage and to redirect our state’s course toward a more sustainable future. We continue to protect the public’s natural treasures, focusing on Arctic and sub-Arctic wilderness and the surrounding seas. Resource-management patterns across the north are sufficiently complex that addressing only federal land or any other single approach is inadequate. Millions of acres, inside and outside of federally or state-designated protected units, pose unique opportunities to leave a natural heritage of significant scope to future generations. The Northern Center will emphasize the nature and scope of this opportunity by closely integrating our present program approaches (Arctic, clean water, mining) and by emphasizing coordination with related efforts around the state.

OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES

The Northern Alaska Environmental Center:

  1. Believes that a healthy environment is a prerequisite for a sustainable economy.
  2. Bases conservation decisions on sound science and ethics.
  3. Uses our stakeholders’ energy, expertise and enthusiasm to strengthen the organization.
  4. Seeks opportunities to collaborate with federal, state and local government agencies, and with other organizations to enhance our effectiveness.
  5. Supports the establishment, protection and appropriate stewardship of designated Wilderness areas, as well other less-restrictive management that protects sustainable uses of non-Wilderness wild lands.
  6. Values healthy and intact ecosystems where habitat fragmentation is minimized and wildlands are respected.
  1. Favors stewardship over intensive management of natural resources, in order to meet the needs of the present generation without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
  2. Encourages the implementation of clean energy technologies and management practices that minimize air, water and noise pollution and impacts on habitat.
  3. Supports public processes—including use of legal, legislative, and administrative systems—in natural resource use decisions.
  4. Expects to comment on issues in our areas of expertise and interest.
  5. Puts our greatest effort into issues whose results are irreversible or long lasting.
  6. Employs clear, honest communication and constructive dialogue.
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