Bristol Bay students to dive into policymaking in Juneau

Dec 4, 2015

When the Alaska legislature convenes in Juneau, a group of UAF students will be there to learn about how the lawmaking process affects Bristol Bay.

Don't those fisher-folks clean up nicely? Several Bristol Bay fishermen were among the students (and professors) who traveled to Juneau to learn about the legislature during the 2015 session.
Credit Bristol Bay Campus

The environmental studies class, led by two Dillingham professors, centers on fisheries policy. Assistant professor Gabe Dunham, with the Alaska Seagrant Bristol Bay Marine Advisory Program, says the class goes behind the scenes of decision-making at the state level.

"We visited about 30 legislators last year," says Dunham. "So we get an extensive exposure to that process. But we also try to get the students access to all the other contributors, like the folks at Fish and Game, the Commissioner... We visit with various lobbyists, we talk to the news crews in Juneau, all to sort of give the people who take the course a really holistic view of the entire process."

Students will take two 1-credit courses -- one that meets regularly throughout the semester, and one that consists of a week-long trip to Juneau at the start of the session in late January.

The group will meet lawmakers and learn how the legislative process can affect funding for fisheries research and management.

UAF professor Mike Davis, who has taught this course for over a decade, says it's geared toward anyone who wants a say in fisheries policy -- from first-year college students, to fishermen and veteran community leaders.

"Part of it is gaining some recognition for what the process is," says Davis, "but it's also about gaining some tools. Some people have never testified before the legislature before, so one of the things we have at the end of the week is a mock legislative session, and they give testimony. And we’ll have legislators sitting in giving them pointers – 'that’s good testimony, that’s not' – so legislators are providing input on how to give testimony that's effective." 

Davis says some funding will be available to cover travel and housing. Students can register by calling the Bristol Bay Campus.  

Contact the author at hannah@kdlg.org.