Teens Traveled to Juneau for Week of Civic Engagement
March 08, 2018
The annual Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) Civics & Conservation Summit is a youth leadership training that brings teens from diverse regions of the state together to build skills in civic action, issue analysis, advocacy and statewide leadership through high-impact civic engagement lessons.
Ketchikan teens Laura Sherrill and Talisa McKinley were two in a group of 26 youth delegates, representing 11 urban and rural Alaska communities, participating in the annual summit. Teen delegates focused on talking to their legislators about several bills, including House Bill 173 on climate change, House Bill 199 on salmon habitat protection, and House Bill 277 on net neutrality and internet access.
Sherrill is a sophomore the captain of her school’s NOSB team, and focusing her passions on climate change and ocean warming.
McKinley comes from a military family and values highly her home, her community of Ketchikan and her environment. Quoting a news release, this love has pushed her to engage with her representatives in Juneau.
The AYEA youth leaders delivered a support letter signed by over 200 teens from around the state to Rep. Stutes at their annual AYEA salmon picnic outside the Capitol on Friday, March 9. The teens hail from communities around Alaska – from Barrow to Ketchikan and Dutch Harbor to the Interior. Half of them are Alaska Native and almost all the youths come from rural communities that directly rely upon salmon for food, culture, income and recreation.
The letter supported House Bill 199, “The Wild Salmon Legacy Act,” introduced by Fisheries Committee Chair Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak) at the request of the Alaska Board of Fisheries. The HB 199 would update Alaska’s law governing development in salmon habitat, encouraging responsible development and bolstering protections for salmon.15-year-old Chiara Demientieff, of Bethel and Galena, said, “Salmon brings my family together each year to harvest. Salmon brings food, and income through the tourism and fish camps. Almost everyone I know fishes, we depend on the salmon runs each year for food and jobs.”
“We’re here in Juneau to represent the present and the future, and to argue for strong protections for wild salmon – a foundation of our economy and our way of life,” said Olivia Olson, age 16, from Aleknagik. “Strong wild salmon runs are the legacy passed down to us from our fathers and mothers and we intend to pass that on to our next generations and communities. Rep. Stutes’ bill is the clearest path for us to protect salmon and our Alaska Native culture into the future.”
“Salmon is a big part of our town. We share our food, and it’s about respecting our elders and our culture,” said Paul Huntington, age 13, from Galena. “We need to keep our salmon runs strong with strong protections for them, like what is written into this bill.”
These teen leaders joined thousands of Alaskans from across the state that have voiced support for improving salmon habitat protections, an issue that unifies nearly all Alaskans – from urban anglers to rural subsistence communities to commercial fishermen.
Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) is a youth program of the Alaska Center Education Fund working to inspire rural and urban teen leaders from across the state to impact environmental issues by providing leadership skill and training to support youth-led community action.
Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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