Ann’s first Alaska field season brought her to the Brooks Range in 1979. But her immersion in Alaska conservation policy began a year earlier at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C., where, as a grad student intern, she delved into weeks of hearings on the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
“That experience turned out to be the perfect orientation to Alaska as I became an entry-level biologist here,” she says.
Ann would work in the legacy of that historic conservation legislation as she monitored exploration on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and led an environmental assessment of proposed oil and gas development there. Ultimately, she supervised the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Anchorage Field Office.
Nature.org sat down to chat with Ann and learn why she’s devoted to getting kids into nature, what a “conservation win-win” looks like, and how she likes to grill a salmon.
"Youth who haven’t had many outdoor experiences are missing a source of health and happiness in their lives."
- Ann Rappaport
After 33 years in the conservation field in Alaska, you must have some favorite moments. What are they?
One of my most satisfying projects was working with the commercial fishermen from the North Pacific Longline Association. We sat down together with the scientific community to fix a problem: the unnecessary deaths of 17,000 seabirds a year – a toll that included the endangered short-tailed albatross. They were being incidentally caught in fishing gear. Together we developed a win-win solution that required special gear called “tori lines” which kept birds from getting to the baited hooks and drowning. This also meant there were more baited hooks in the water to catch fish, so there were clear benefits for everyone.
What drew you to The Nature Conservancy?
I’m a long-time member of The Nature Conservancy and professionally, I have worked closely with the Conservancy as a partner since some of their early Alaska work on restoring fish habitat on the Kenai River. That’s when I was first exposed to how the Conservancy can come in when there are natural resource conflicts and find mutually beneficial solutions. The Conservancy fills a unique niche by balancing people’s needs with what’s best for our fish and wildlife.
How do you see your experience in Alaska helping the Conservancy to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends?
I know I can provide a bridge to our agency partners and I’m very familiar with the kinds of information they need and roadblocks they encounter in effectively managing our natural resources. So I’m looking forward to working from within the Conservancy to facilitate the scientific work and partnerships needed for effective resource conservation. Ultimately that’s an art requiring a lot of creativity and perseverance.
What have you learned about the Conservancy since you became director of conservation in Alaska?
I’m continually pleased as I learn more and more about the rigorous science and positive work the Conservancy is doing here in Alaska, as well as throughout the U.S. and even globally. Working with such a dedicated, thoughtful, and fine group of scientists, conservation managers and support staff is proving particularly rewarding.
You’ve worked on a wide range of conservation issues in Alaska. Which of them is most important to you?
Most recently, it’s connecting people — especially youth — with nature. If kids grow up without a connection to nature, they’re not going to care or even know about the tremendously satisfying careers possible in working with our natural resources. As a nation, we’re becoming more ethnically and racially diverse yet that diversity is not represented in either natural resource professions or among outdoor enthusiasts.
We’re losing a future generation of biologists, resource managers, hydrologists, backpackers and hikers. More importantly, youth who haven’t had many outdoor experiences are missing a source of health and happiness in their lives.
What does the future of conservation in Alaska look like?
We have tremendous opportunities here in Alaska. Following up on my previous comment, there are more and more opportunities to engage younger people with nature. The Conservancy’s GLOBE interns to Alaska’s “Get Out and Play” campaign and the Get Outdoors Alaska activities are all great examples. Our salmon habitat partnerships in the Mat-Su, Southwest Alaska, and Southeast Alaska are involving everyone from local watershed groups, to local, state and federal agencies, universities, Native villages, non-profits, and industries.
The Conservancy’s recent Path to Prosperity program in Southeast is promoting local sustainable businesses and sustainable timber practices. I think we can take that example as a model to modify in tune with other Alaska communities. I’m looking forward to these challenges.
When your family and friends get together in the backyard on a sunny summer evening, what’s for dinner?
We love grilled salmon. Our favorite recipe is adapted from a Cordova restaurant famous for their Copper River red salmon and we’ve shared this with many folks:
1 c. orange juice
1 c. soy sauce
½ c. ketchup
½ c. oil
½ c. chopped fresh parsley (or ¼ cup dried)
½ c. lemon juice
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp pepper
4 med/large cloves garlic (mashed)
Mix all ingredients in quart jar. Cover raw salmon fillets in marinade in glass pan or sealed plastic bag for 12-24 hours. Then grill salmon a few minutes on each side (skinless side against grill first) till barely done. Enjoy! Extra marinade keeps in fridge for several weeks.