The Alaska Rainforest Defenders stand together: To defend and promote the biological integrity of Southeast Alaska’s terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations.
In 2017 we changed our name to Alaska Rainforest Defenders to clearly indicate our purpose. Formerly we were the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community.
Board of Directors
LARRY EDWARDS, Board President
Larry came to southeast Alaska in 1976 as a mechanical engineer for Alaska Pulp Corporation. He is retired from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, where he was a Fish & Wildlife Technician. Since leaving APC after one year, he has been involved in the region’s forest and pollution issues. Edwards founded the Alaska Environmental Lobby in 1982 (now Alaska Conservation Voice). He served 19 years on the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council board of directors, including three years as President leading up to passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Act (1990), and resigned from the board in 2010. In 1992 Edwards filed a toxic tort against Alaska Pulp Corporation for water and air pollution, resulting in a $2 million endowment establishing the Sitka Alaska Permanent Charitable Trust, which serves the community. Edwards has served as a Greenpeace forest campaigner from 1991-1995 and 2003 to 2017, and also works on climate issues.
Don Hernandez, Board Vice-President
Don was born and raised in New Jersey. In 1974, at age 18 he headed for Alaska for a visit and landed a job with the US Forest Service as a road surveyor at Thorne Bay, Prince of Wales Island. He spent three years working for the USFS at Rowan Bay & Bay of Pillars on Kuiu Island, and various locations on Zarembo, Etolin and Mitkof Islands before deciding that he wanted to try his hand at commercial fishing. He spent the next five years living in Petersburg, working as a deckhand year round shrimping, crabbing seining and longlining. In 1982 he bought a SE gillnet permit and a piece of property in Point Baker on Prince of Wales Island. He married Andrea in 1986 and together they have built their home, raised their son and fished together as a family. In the off season, he has worked on tree thinning contracts, deckhanded on tugs towing log rafts and operated a small, local sawmill. He has served as chairman of the Point Baker Community Association and the Sumner Strait Fish and Game Advisory Committee. He was appointed to the SE Regional Subsistence Advisory Council in 2003, and is still a current member. From 2004-2006 he chaired the Unit 2 Deer Planning Subcommittee. When he isn’t fixing or building things, Don enjoys hiking, hunting and beachcombing.
BECKY KNIGHT, Board Secretary
Becky is a long-time Southeast Alaska grassroots volunteer. She has donated thousands of hours working on a variety of timber, pesticide, mining, hydro, and other environmental issues affecting Southeast Alaska and her hometown of Petersburg. Becky was President of Petersburg based Narrows Conservation Coalition. She has a degree in Forestry and Wildlife Management and worked as a forester for the United States Forest Service for five years. She is retired from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game where she worked as a Fish and Wildlife Technician for the Groundfish Program. Becky remains an active halibut IFQ holder in a commercial fishing family ranging from SE Alaska to Bristol Bay and understands that intact habitat is our most precious Alaska resource.
NORBERT CHAUDHARY, Board Member
Norbert is a lifelong conservationist and professional mariner. He first worked in Alaskan waters during the early 80’s in the Bering Sea, and later as a Captain of a research vessel involved in studying the impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill catastrophe. He has since traveled the world on cargo ships witnessing the growing pollution of the oceans and widespread environmental destruction particularly in Asia and Africa. All this has given him an appreciation of how precious Alaska is and the importance of protecting and preserving some of the last wilderness lands on the planet. Captain Chaudhary is currently working as a Alaska Marine Pilot. He and his wife Diana have made their home in Ketchikan for the last 22 years raising four children and are now “enjoying” the four pets they left behind.
JOHN SKEELE, Board Member
John moved to Sitka from his home in Vermont in 1974, soon after graduating high school. He entered Sheldon Jackson college in Sitka and enrolled in the Hatchery technician program. John's first summer in Alaska was spent working with the USFS, as an assistant in the initial E.I.S survey of Chichagof island. His second summer was spent working for ADF&G as a hatchery technician for the newly formed state of Alaska FRED division [Fisheries rehabilitation and enhancement division]. During the course of this employment John realized that his interests were leaning more toward catching fish than raising them, so he spent his savings on an old commercial salmon trolling boat and began fishing for a living. John longlines for halibut and gillnet for salmon on his boat, the f/v Sunfish.
NATALIE DAWSON, Scientist
Natalie has spent over a decade working as a research biologist in southeast Alaska, where she eventually received her PhD studying the charismatic mesofauna on Tongass Islands, focusing on endemic mammals. Natalie is a research associate with the University of New Mexico, where she continues to assist with the ISLES project (Island Surveys to Locate Endemic Species) based in southeast Alaska. She continues to learn from the Tongass through teaching field courses to college students among the forested islands and is the Associate Director of the Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana. She is most at home when bushwacking through Vaccinium and Oplopanax in orange, Helly Hansen raingear.
MATT KIRCHHOFF, Scientist
Matt has worked as a Wildlife Biologist in Alaska for 35 years, developing expertise in old-growth forest ecology, Sitka black-tailed deer, and the Marbled Murrelet (a tree-nesting seabird). Matt recently retired from Audubon Alaska, where he served as Director of bird conservation. In addition to the GSACC board, he serves on the board of Audubon Alaska and is a trustee emeritus of the Alaska Conservation Foundation. He and his wife Patty currently live in Anchorage, but enjoy “working vacations” in Port Alexander on Baranof Island, where they built a yellow-cedar log cabin nearly 40 years ago. In his spare time, Matt enjoys playing with his two grandchildren, and messing about in boats.
ELSA SEBASTIAN, Volunteer Website Manager
Elsa has lived her entire life in Southeast Alaska and spent every summer of it on the ocean catching salmon. After years of running a commercial troller, Elsa decided to invest more of her energy into protecting the home that she loves. She started this work with a ground-truthing adventure on Prince of Wales (her home island). Elsa currently lives in Haines where she directs Lynn Canal Conservation. In the summer months she drift gillnets in Bristol Bay. She’s an ardent supporter of ARD, and happily channels this energy into website updates.