At our June 6 Friends’ Board meeting, Marilyn Sigman was appointed as President. replacing long time President, David Raskin. Marilyn joined the Board in 2022. She is a retired wildlife biologist and science and environmental educator who has previously chaired the Boards of Alaska Geographic (under its previous name, the Alaska Natural History Association), the Alaska Conservation Foundation, and the Alaska Natural Resources and Outdoor Education Association.
Caroline Brouwer was appointed to a new position of a second Vice-President which we amended our bylaws to include. Caroline has served on the Board since 2020 and has been involved in advocacy for the National Wildlife Refuge System since 2008, lobbying on behalf of funding increases for the Refuge System and policy changes. She spent 14 years working in Washington, DC on behalf of public lands advocacy and national wildlife refuges with Ducks Unlimited and the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
Marilyn Sigman, Board President Caroline Brouwer, 2nd VIce-President
In other actions, Tara Schmidt was reappointed as Board Secretary, a position she has served in for six years. Since being appointed to the board in 2017, Tara has served as a liaison, first with the Kenai Refuge and is now working with the Innoko, Nowitna, Koyukuk Refuge Complex. She is active with the Outreach and Education Committee and the Shorebird Festival Committee.
Tara, Poppy Benson, and Jason Sodergren were reappointed as Board members, with Poppy continuing in her role as a Vice-President and Jason as Treasurer. Elections for these positions will be held in February next year.
We thank David Raskin for his long and dedicated service as a founding Board member, Board President, and tireless advocate for Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges.
After nearly two decades of service as a founder, President for 16 years, and Advocacy Chair, David Raskin has retired from the Board of Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. We thank David for his many years of dedicated service, and his passionate advocacy for Alaska’s wildlife refuges. This organization would not be what it is today without his tireless efforts to support and to protect refuges from the coastal plains of the Arctic Refuge to the rich wetlands of the Izembek Refuge and everything in between.
David was there when Friends was created at a meeting at the Kenai Refuge in 2005. He volunteered to be the first president and has been the only president for all but two years of our history. During his tenure, Friends grew from an organization of a few dozen people to the 315 members we have today. Our volunteer, advocacy and education programs have increased exponentially under his leadership.
David (on left) at the founding of Friends in 2005 at the Environmental Education Center at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. pc.USFWS
In his advocacy work, David has attended many meetings with the Alaska Congressional delegation, testified before Congress and at public meetings in Alaska, submitted many beautifully written and persuasive comment letters on refuge planning documents and issues under review and formed alliances with other conservation partners. He was the author of advocacy column in this newsletter which sought to keep all of us up to date on refuge issues. Principal issues he was engaged in included proposed oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge, the proposed road through Izembek Refuge and a proposed gutting of Kenai Refuge regulations. He made a point of visiting many of Alaska’s 16 refuges and cultivated relationships with Fish and Wildlife staff in the Anchorage regional office and on individual refuges. David’s first-hand knowledge of refuge lands and the people responsible for managing them, increased our effectiveness in advocacy and support of the Refuges.
David (on left) receiving the Outstanding Friends Group of the Year Award in 2010 in Washington D.C. from the National Wildlife Refuge Association. David’s wife Marga is next to him and founding “mothers” Sharon Baur, Ginny Harris, Betty Siegel and Patricia Wood. Then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is behind Ginny. pc:USFWS
In recent years, he was honored as the recipient of two prestigious awards in recognition of his work—the 2022 Refuge Advocate of the Year from the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the 2021 Celia Hunter Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions from the Alaska Conservation Foundation. Read more about how David got into conservation work, what drew him to Alaska and why he embraced the National Wildlife Refuge System HERE.
David came to conservation work through his love of fishing. Here David is leading a “fishing meeting” in 2020 on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge where he and Board Vice President Poppy Benson sought to convince Mike Schantz (left) to join our board. It worked! pc: Friends
We as a Board will miss the wise counsel and deep knowledge that David has contributed to our work for the last 18 years. His passion for wildlife refuges and the success of the System in Alaska has been an inspiration to us all.