Our Mission

ARD’s mission is:  “To defend and promote the biological integrity of Southeast Alaska’s terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations.”

Our approach to accomplishing this mission is explained in our Founding Principles, which you may read here

In July 2017 we changed our name to the shorter Alaska Rainforest Defenders to clearly indicate our purpose. Formerly we were the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community.


ARD Board of Directors

ARD board President Larry Edwards 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 the present, and also works on climate issues.
Don Hernandez2 ARD board Vice-president Don Hernandez was born and raised in New Jersey. In 1974, at age 18 he headed for Alaska for a visit and landing 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.
ARD board Secretary Becky Knight 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.
ARD board Treasurer John Skeele joined our board in August, and his bio and photo will be posted soon. He is a long-time resident of Baranof Island, having lived in Port Alexander for many years and presently in Sitka. John is a gillnetter and troller.
ARD Director Paul Olson started commercial fishing in southeast Alaska as a child in the 1970s.  Olson now runs a salmon troller and has pursued big king salmon and other fish all over southeast Alaska for the past thirty years.  He lives in Sitka with his lovely wife, sharing their home with a spoiled golden retriever, an unruly yellow Labrador retriever and a large fluffy cat.  Olson also became involved in salmon habitat protection during the 1990s and periodically took time off from fishing in order to obtain a law degree from Lewis and Clark College’s Northwestern School of Law in 2005 with an emphasis on natural resource and environmental law.  Olson now moonlights as an attorney and runs a limited law practice during breaks from fishing.   His work includes efforts to protect salmon and wildlife habitat from clearcut logging and associated road construction and large-scale hydropower developments.  In his spare time, Olson likes to cook big meals for friends, draw pictures of sea monsters with his grandson, and hike in the woods and local mountains with his retrievers.
Don Hernandez2 ARD board member Norbert Chaudhary 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.

ARD Science Advisors

Matt_Kirchhoff[1] Matt Kirchhoff 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. 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.
Natalie Dawson 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. Natalie is also the Associate Director of the Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana, and teaches the Wilderness and Civilization program, an interdisciplinary field and campus-based program that awards college students with a minor in Wilderness Studies upon completion. She is most at home when bushwacking through Vaccinium and Oplopanax in orange, Helly Hansen raingear.