Nineteen high school teens from across the state, from Utqiagvik to Ketchikan, hold a March for Salmon as the culmination of this year’s Civics and Conservation Summit in Juneau, on Friday, March 17, 2017. The event is hosted by Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, a program of The Alaska Center in Anchorage, which trains young people to be environmental leaders. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Nineteen high school teens from across the state, from Utqiagvik to Ketchikan, hold a March for Salmon as the culmination of this year’s Civics and Conservation Summit in Juneau, on Friday, March 17, 2017. The event is hosted by Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, a program of The Alaska Center in Anchorage, which trains young people to be environmental leaders. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Emerging voters: ‘We want salmon!’

Millennials: self-centered, glued to their phones and unable to focus on anything longer than a six-second gif.

Alaska’s youth know how to turn that stereotype on its head as anyone attending Friday’s March for Salmon could see. The event, put on by The Alaska Center, was the culmination of a week of political engagement from students representing every corner of the state.

Nineteen AYEA representatives descended on the Capitol building this week to collaborate with legislators on salmon conservation. They set out to prove that the state’s emerging voters are looking out for the environment, and if lawmakers don’t heed their call to action, their jobs will soon be on the chopping block like, well, a nice king salmon.

AYEA is backing two bills this legislature: House Bill 14 and House Joint Resolution 9. HB 14 is crafted to further regulate mines similar to the proposed Pebble Mine, a project that’s expected to negatively affect lucrative fishing grounds in Bristol Bay.

“Basically, it strengthens the regulations that people need to get before developing metallic sulfide mines,” Chugiak High School senior Carly Dennis said.

HJR 9 asks the federal government to intervene in disputes between Canada and the U.S. over proposed mines upriver from Southeast salmon habitat. Those mines could affect salmon near Ketchikan High School senior Gabriel Canfield’s hometown. The senior said so-called “transboundary” mines are a “really big deal,” but that doesn’t mean the group is against resource development.

“We’re not anti-mine, that’s for sure,” Canfield said. “We just don’t want it to destroy the fisheries we already have because mining is not as sustainable, but it’s not a bad thing because everyone wants their iPhone, they want their laptops.”

Jode Sparks, a junior at Soldotna High School, lobbied legislators to oppose budget cuts for state departments that regulate salmon. Sparks heads up the budget team for AYEA.

“In Alaska, we pride ourselves on good environmental protection and having resources to protect our resources,” Sparks said. “That’s what AYEA is all about: sustainability for the environment and sustainability for Alaska’s fiscal future.”

Juneau Representative Justin Parish loved the youthful enthusiasm. Speaking from the steps of the Dimond Courthouse Building, Parish exhorted the young environmentalists not to hesitate to come in and “pigeonhole” their representatives.

“We work for you, and sometimes we need to be reminded of that,” Parish said to the group.

Before serving in the Legislature, Parish worked at Floyd Dryden Middle School. The importance of engaging youth in politics is not lost on him.

“They’re paying attention. It really gives us all cause for hope, I think,” he said.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com.


Kailyn Phillips, left, of Utqiagvik, and Tasha Elizarde, of Juneau, meet with high school teens from across the state, from Utqiagvik to Ketchikan, to hold a March for Salmon as the culmination of this year’s Civics and Conservation Summit in Juneau, on Friday, March 17, 2017. The event is hosted by Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, a program of The Alaska Center in Anchorage, which trains young people to be environmental leaders. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Kailyn Phillips, left, of Utqiagvik, and Tasha Elizarde, of Juneau, meet with high school teens from across the state, from Utqiagvik to Ketchikan, to hold a March for Salmon as the culmination of this year’s Civics and Conservation Summit in Juneau, on Friday, March 17, 2017. The event is hosted by Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, a program of The Alaska Center in Anchorage, which trains young people to be environmental leaders. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Jode Sparks, of Soldotna, speaks about the importance of salmon to the Kenai Pennisula before a March for Salmon as the culmination of this year’s Civics and Conservation Summit in Juneau, on Friday, March 17, 2017. The event is hosted by Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, a program of The Alaska Center in Anchorage, which trains young people to be environmental leaders. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Jode Sparks, of Soldotna, speaks about the importance of salmon to the Kenai Pennisula before a March for Salmon as the culmination of this year’s Civics and Conservation Summit in Juneau, on Friday, March 17, 2017. The event is hosted by Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, a program of The Alaska Center in Anchorage, which trains young people to be environmental leaders. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in News

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a Glance for Wednesday, Dec. 1

Numbers come from reports from the City and Borough of Juneau Emergency… Continue reading

A man missing for more than 40 years was identified by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation as a Chugiak resident who was last seen in 1979 before being discovered murdered years before on an island near Anchorage in 1989. (Courtesy photo / Alaska Department of Public Safety)
Body found in ’80s ID’d with DNA analysis

The body, found in 1989, had been unidentified until now.

teaser
Planet Alaska: Visiting the ancestors through glimpses of glyphs

We live in Tlingit Aaní on Kaachxaan.akw’w where our petroglyphs are a symbol of home.

Wilson Valentine (right) and John Staub rehearse ahead of the Juneau Symphony’s return to in-person performances in October. Earlier this month, Christopher Koch was named music director of the symphony. He will conduct his first concert in that role in late January. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Making beautiful music together

Meet the symphony’s new music director

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a Glance for Tuesday, Nov. 30

Numbers come from reports from the City and Borough of Juneau Emergency… Continue reading

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This photo shows a raven in the snow. (Courtesy Photo / Kerry Howard)
On the Trails: Transition to winter — maybe

A mat of old leaves lined the roadway, each leaf fringed with crystals, making a pretty mosaic…

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Thin ice sheets form near the Mendenhall Glacier in early November. (Courtesy Photo / Kenneth Gill, gillfoto)
Wild Shots: Photos of Mother Nature in Alaska

Reader-submitted photos of Southeast Alaska.

Most Read