Conservation organizations active in Alaska can be a tiny, local group focused on a single local issue, a state-supported data repository, or an international powerhouse with deep resources and a broad mission. All rely on good science to make their case, change minds, and affect legislation. This is a list of our favorite organizations active to Alaska. We list the geographic focus for each. Are there others we should know about? Let us know with an email here.
Alaska Center for Conservation Science
Part of the University of Alaska, Anchorage, the ACCS provides the public, industry, and agency partners with data for effective biological conservation and management of the state’s natural resources. They conduct basic and applied research that serves a wide range of data to the public, offer professional services, and provide educational opportunities. ACCS also supports the Alaska Natural Heritage Program (AKNHP) and Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (KBNERR) and offers educational opportunities for K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students. Their website is an extraordinary resource. Website.
Alaskan Conservation Foundation
The Tongass, Bristol Bay, Northern Latitude Partnerships
The ACF protects Alaska’s natural environment and the diverse cultures and ways of life it sustains. It does this by promoting conservation philanthropy and by strategically directing resources to conservation leaders, organizations, and initiatives. Founded in 1980, the Alaska Conservation Foundation is the only public foundation solely dedicated to conservation in Alaska, connecting thousands of committed donors and businesses worldwide with more than a hundred grassroots conservation organizations in Alaska. Over the last four decades, Alaska Conservation Foundation has awarded more than $52 million in grants to hundreds of Alaskan organizations and individuals. Website.
Alaska Marine Conservation Council
Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea & Aleutian Islands
AMCC is comprised of fishermen, subsistence harvesters, marine scientists, conservationists, families, and others working to restore and protect the Alaska marine environment by promoting sustainable fishing practices, habit protection, and local stewardship. They are contributing to policy that impacts ecosystem health, addressing the halibut bycatch crisis in the Bering Sea, and advocating for equitable access to our ocean commons. They also run Catch 49, a community-supported Fishery that distributes seafood harvested by Alaska's low-impact, small-boat fishermen to communities stretching from Homer to Fairbanks. Website.
Alaska Rainforest Defenders
Southeast Alaska has the largest contiguous stand of coastal temperate rainforest remaining in the world. The ARD is dedicated to protecting it from corporate timber interests and other threats. Formed in 2011 by six long-time professionals and environmentalists, all of whom spent their careers working in the Tongass and many of whom were impatient with what they felt was a soft approach taken by other environmental groups, uses research, public comment, and legal action to protect the forest. As always, their primary cause is protecting the forest from rapacious logging, but they are also working to save the wolves and fisheries of Southeast, and push back on unnecessary and damaging roads cut through the wilderness. Website.
Alaska Whale Foundation
Southeast Alaska, Sitka, Chatham Strait, Stephens Passage
The AWF was founded in 1996 to study and protect the amazing and endangered humpback whales in Southeast Alaska. The diverse team of biologists, educators, vessel captains, and illustrators were inspired by Fred Sharpe’s early work on the social behavior of the region's humpbacks. Together, they fueled an appreciation for the animals and elicited the generous support of individuals, conservation organizations, and Alaskan communities. They have a field office in Warm Springs on Baranoff. We hosted them on a trip to Sitka Sound in March 2022, as described in Expeditions. Website.
Alaska Wildlife Alliance
Anchorage, Juneau, Cook Inlet, Homer, and Kachemak Bay
The AWA advocates for healthy ecosystems, scientifically and ethically managed to protect our wildlife for present and future generations. Founded in 1978 as a branch of Greenpeace to protect wildlife from nuclear weapons tests in the Aleutians; it became independent in 1982. AWA helped establish Alaska’s Wildlife Refuges (including the Coastal Plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), and in 2010, successfully petitioned to get the critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale onto the Endangered Species List. Today, the AWA continues working for beluga recovery through spring and fall monitoring in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. The group hosts wildlife walks in Anchorage (followed by a visit to a brewery) from May through September. Videos of their recent events, including their upcoming Denali Wolf documentary, Climate Adaptation Workshop, and the Kachemak Bay Marine Mammal Forum are on their website and YouTube channel. This is a small organization with a big impact. Website. Facebook.
Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust
Bearing Sea, Bristol Bay
The Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust is dedicated to the preservation and protection of the salmon and wildlife habitat of the Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska. Land trusts buy up land to prevent development while leaving native and hunting fishing rights in place. Founded in 1999, its main focus is now the Pedro Bay Rivers project in partnership with the Pedro Bay Corporation, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, and The Conservation Fund. The goal is to conserve over 44,170 acres of vital habitat on Iliamna Lake that is essential to the health and vitality of Bristol Bay, the people who live there, and the world-renowned salmon industry. Website.
Chichagof Conservation Council
Southeast, Chichagof Island, Tenakee Inlet
The CCC is a non-profit group dedicated to providing information about conservation issues, especially those that affect Tenakee Inlet and Chichagof Island. Their primary focus is protecting the salmon streams that feed into Tenakee Inlet. Until the passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Act in 1990, management of the Tongass National Forest was dictated by 50-year contracts that guaranteed profits for two pulp mills. Persistent local voices called for permanent protection of Kadashan, Trap Bay and the fish-rich watersheds of Upper Tenakee Inlet. The House version of the Tongass Timber Reform Act included all of those areas, but the eventual compromise legislation dropped Upper Tenakee Inlet. CCC’s primary goal remains to finish the job and gain permanent protected status for Seal Bay, Long Bay, Goose Flats, the head of Tenakee Inlet, and Saltery Bay. See our visit to their stream monitoring project in Expeditions. Website.
Gulf of Alaska, Prince William Sound
Based in Cordova, the Native Conservancy’s mission is to protect and restore Alaska Native ecosystems for coastal communities through native-owned and led land conservancy. After the creation of the Exxon Restoration Fund in 1991, Alaska Native corporations, established under the Alaskan Native Claim Settlement Act (ANCSA, 1971), began to negotiate with state and federal government agencies for permanent habitat protection agreements on their private land inholdings in the Exxon Valdez oil spill zone. The Native Conservancy, along with its sister organization, the Eyak Preservation Council (EPC), helped preserve more than a million acres of wild salmon habitat along 3,500 miles of the Gulf of Alaska coastline. This started to reverse a trend of planned deforestation by Native corporations in the spill zone. Website.
Alaska and World-Wide
Oceana seeks to make our oceans more biodiverse and abundant by winning policy victories in the countries that govern much of the world’s marine life. Oceana, founded in 2001, is probably the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. With officers around the world, they work internationally to win strategic, directed campaigns that achieve measurable outcomes that will help make our oceans more bio-diverse and abundant. Their scientists in the Juneau office are focused on plastics and bycatch, but specifically, the damage caused by trawlers scraping the ocean floor in the Gulf of Alaska, damaging Alaskan coral beds and other fragile ecosystems. Website.
Save Bristol Bay
Bering Sea, Bristol Bay
Save Bristol Bay, a project of Trout Unlimited, is a group of individuals, organizations, and businesses dedicated to protecting Bristol Bay’s wild salmon, jobs, and communities from the proposed Pebble mine. Their mission is to ensure that the last, greatest, wild salmon fishery on the planet will continue for future generations. They have built a strong network between commercial fishermen, sportfishing lodges, and native leaders. Website.
Sierra Cub, Alaska Chapter
Sierra Club Alaska is a state chapter of the national non-profit with a mission to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of Alaska. They are working to shield Alaska from the mentality that has drilled, logged, and developed away much of the open spaces in the Lower 48. They are striving for an Alaska based on renewable energy, healthy communities, sustainable use of our resources, and preservation of our wild places. They work to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment through all lawful means: on the campaign trail, on the hiking trails, in the courtroom, and in the community. Website.
Southeast Alaska Conservation Council
The SACC is a homegrown conservation group of Southeast Alaskans fighting to protect the rivers and old-growth forests of the Tongass. Their Inside Passage Waters Program supports Southeast Alaskan communities in having a strong voice, developing solutions for managing, protecting, and benefiting from local waterways, and learning from local knowledge about what works for maintaining balance. Their work is currently focused on three transboundary watersheds: the Chilkat (Jilkaat Heen) near Klukwan and Haines, the Stikine (Shtax’héen) near Wrangell and Petersburg, and the Unuk (Junak) near Ketchikan, Saxman, and Metlakatla. All three of these rivers are vitally important to the survival of wild Pacific salmon and the nearby communities, and all of them are threatened by upstream mining activity. Website.