Southeast conservation leader steps down

Southeast Alaska’s largest environmental organization is advertising for a new executive director. Malena Marvin has led the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council for close to two years.

Download Audio

Outgoing SEACC Executive Director Malena Marvin poses while kayaking in Juneau’s Mendenhall Lake. (Photo courtesy SEACC)
Outgoing SEACC Executive Director Malena Marvin poses while kayaking in Juneau’s Mendenhall Lake. (Photo courtesy SEACC)

She’s stepping down after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Marvin said her prognosis is good, but she needs time to recover and prevent a recurrence.

Under her leadership, SEACC expanded its opposition to British Columbia mine projects near waterways that flow into Alaska.

It formed a new group, Inside Passage Waterkeeper, and worked with other environmental, fisheries, tourism and tribal groups opposed to transboundary mining.

“We’re a people who survive on fish and seafood and we need clean water for that to continue to be a healthy resource for communities,” Marvin said.

It’s also continued work on climate change, forest preservation and transportation.

Marvin expects the organization to continue its course as promoters of clean water and healthy forests.

“As someone who has cancer and struggles with the seemingly random nature of the disease, it’s just really, really hit me how important it is that we ask the Department of Environmental Conservation to raise our standards,” she said.

That includes state rules listing the acceptable rate of cancer, which she said is too low.

SEACC began in 1970 as a Tongass National Forest preservation group that fought large-scale logging in the courts.

It continues to file timber lawsuits, but it also collaborates with some former foes, such as Sealaska and the Southeast Conference, on food security, sustainability and some other issues.

Board President Clay Frick said that will continue under new leadership.

“Anytime you collaborate with folks, I think you end with up a better outcome. You end up building more power and I think that’s something this region is very much in need of. So when we can we certainly will,” Frick said.

Frick said Marvin moved SEACC in the right direction, citing a new Tongass planning effort and other recent programs.

“She’s laid some really important foundation work for us to continue forward. … We look forward to whoever steps to the plate or whoever we find will have a very solid base to spring off of,” Frick said.

Marvin continues to do some work for SEACC. Her resignation takes effect Jan. 1st. The job was posted online earlier this month.

Marvin said SEACC’s strength is its regional roots.

“It isn’t an outside environmental group. It’s not somebody who lives in Anchorage or Seattle or New York. It’s thousands of people, the members of SEACC, who live here and work here and always have,” she said.

Before taking over at SEACC, Marvin spent five years with Oregon’s Klamath Riverkeeper. It campaigned to remove dams on the salmon-producing river.

SEACC’s prior executive director, Lindsey Ketchel, spent about five years on the job before resigning.

SEACC Development Director Emily Ferry is filling in as acting executive director, but said she is not applying for the permanent job.

Previous articleA look back as Juneau Assembly considers Gastineau reboot
Next articleStudy: Tundra fires induce permafrost melt, land change
Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.