Sullivan Honors Beth Trowbridge as “Alaskan of the Week”

WASHINGTON—On the floor of the U.S. Senate today, and in honor of ongoing Earth Day celebrations, Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) recognized Beth Trowbridge, of Homer, the executive director of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies (CACS). Trowbridge has spent the last 40 years advocating for Alaska’s wilderness and wildlife, cleaning up the oceans and shorelines plagued by marine debris, and educating others about their role in preserving the natural environment for future generations. Senator Sullivan recognized Trowbridge as part of his series, “Alaskan of the Week.”


Madam President, it's Thursday, and by now many know, particularly our members of the press corps, it's time for what I feel is probably one of the best moments in the Senate each week. It's time for the Alaskan of the Week. 

I get to talk about Alaska, talk about somebody who's doing extraordinary things for our state, for our country, a lot of times, and I'd like to give an update when I do my Alaskan of the Week speech about what's going on in Alaska.  

It's spring, of course. The sun is high in most parts of the state, actually in all parts of the state. Spring, we call it “break-up” actually, relating to the ice on the rivers. It is upon us. Now, of course, it can still snow and it still gets pretty cold in a lot of places in Alaska. But winter is on the run. The promise of summer is in the air. What a glorious summer it's going to be.  

We aren't out of the woods yet on the pandemic in Alaska, but we have managed—we're proud of it; I'm proud of my fellow Alaskans—the pandemic, the virus, as well as possible. One of the things that's happening right now: Our vaccination rates have been almost from the beginning when we got the vaccine, the highest per capita in the country, despite our huge challenges in terms of size, limited population. It's really kind of a mini- miracle. Number-one vaccination rates in America in Alaska. We did it by dogsled, snow machine, small airplanes, to make that happen.  

If you're watching, America, please come on up to Alaska. It's safe. It's open for tourism. This summer we want you to come on up. By the way, not only will you have an amazing experience, our state just announced a few days ago, you will get a vaccine if you come to Alaska. If your state is too inefficient or bureaucratic to actually get a vaccine, come on up to Alaska. You can have the trip of a lifetime. You and your family can get vaccinated. We want you up there. We are open for business. We want to see Americans come on up and enjoy our great state, as we are getting through this pandemic. 

It's a naturally beautiful place, you'll see, but the people in my state work hard to keep it pristine and are really what makes it such a great place.  

So today, Madam President, in honor of Earth Day, I wanted to honor Homer, Alaska resident Beth Trowbridge, who has spent her career–about 40 years, four decades–working to keep our waters in Alaska and our beaches clean and pristine. Let me tell you a little bit about Beth. 

Originally from St. Louis, Beth first came to Alaska in 1981 as a college student to work on the Youth Conservation Corps in Fairbanks, Alaska in the Interior. She only intended to stay a year—by the way, this is a very common story—but as so many do, she got to Alaska and fell in love with the state. So she transferred to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks where she got her degree in northern and Alaska Native studies. Beth loves the wilderness, she loved living off the land, studying the plants, studying the animals. 

She said, “There are beautiful and amazing people and amazing resources in Alaska.” She said she always loved the sense that while we can all live there, nature in Alaska is always in control. The earthquakes, the volcanoes, the extreme weather, the coldness, they are a constant reminder that, in her words, in Alaska, “there are bigger forces out there.” A lot bigger. And she wants to keep it that way, so she became a steward of her environment and dedicated her life to educating others so that they too could become stewards.  

Madam President, with all of the talk about climate change, I fear that not nearly enough attention is given to those outside of politics, like in this town, who work day-in and day-out to care for the environment in the place they call home, in their communities, in their states, every day, on the ground, at home, making a difference. That's what Beth has done. 

After college, she got a job as the education coordinator for the Prince William Sound Science Center, where she authored the Alaska oil spill curriculum. Then, in 2000, she began her life’s work for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, or CACS, in the drop-dead gorgeous community of Homer, Alaska, surrounded by the beautiful Kachemak Bay. 

Some people call Homer the “place where the land ends and the sea begins.” Others, “the cosmic hamlet by the sea.” Others, “the halibut capital of the world.” But if you haven't visited Homer, America, you've got to go to Homer. My goodness, it is beautiful. 

In Alaska, we just call it awesome, in part because of people like Beth and organizations like hers that keep it that way. 

In 2012, Beth became the organization's executive director and helped expand the good work that CACS has been doing since 1982. This organization is primarily an education organization and offers people of all ages, really from across the globe, not just Alaska, not just America—everywhere—opportunities to connect with the outdoors, learn about coastal environments through guided walks, tours, educational programs, overnight school programs, and so much more.

Think about this impact. Homer, where CACS is located, is a town of about 6,000 people. CACS educates roughly 16,000 people through these science-based programs every year. That's a big impact. They have camps for everyone, and I would encourage anyone who is listening, who is going to go to Homer, to sign up for one of these camps. Explore the unique green ecology, the tidal pools, the abundant sea life, watch whales, seals, sea lions, swim against the backdrop of the Kenai mountains, then go to the forest and learn more about forest wildlife, and adaptation in the forest. There’s so much to do. 

One of the big initiatives of this important organization deals with marine debris. So, today, on Earth Day, let me just put a plug in for the marine debris programs in my state and across the country. This is an issue I have personally been very focused on since my time as a U.S. Senator, working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and we've gotten a lot done. 

We passed the Save Our Seas Act a couple of Congresses ago, and then passed the Save Our Seas Act 2.0, which the Congressional Research Service called the most comprehensive ocean clean-up legislation ever, in the history of the Congress. It was just passed and signed into law in December. We're making progress. 

I do want to give a shout-out to one of my good friends, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Some of us miss his weekly “Wake Up” speeches. I think mine is the only weekly speech anymore. Senator Whitehouse, I’m not sure what happened. But Senator Whitehouse and I have worked very closely on this kind of legislation, ocean debris, ocean clean-up, and to help organizations like CACS with marine debris clean- up and to call attention to this issue that is solvable. We can solve this. Marine debris. ocean plastics. It's bringing a lot of people in America and across the world together. 

One of CACS' biggest annual events is the annual Kachemak Bay Coast Walk. It involves more than 200 volunteers who adopt a section of Kachemak Bay shoreline—and again, you've got to visit Kachemak Bay, one of the most beautiful places on the planet Earth, trust me—surveying changes, collecting data on marine life and human impacts and cleaning up beach litter and marine debris is what people do every year with the Kachemak Bay Coast Walk.

It's the kind of great local work that really makes a difference, that brings people from all across Alaska together, people who know how special and beautiful Kachemak Bay is, and it creates community. That's so important not just for our state, but for our oceans and coastlines. That's one of the many things Beth has done. 

Beth and her husband, Charlie, who is a retired shellfish biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, have four children. The youngest is finishing eighth grade, the oldest is 33. Beth develops environmental curriculums for schools, she is a Rotarian, a Girl Scout leader and keeps CACS running seamlessly.

She says she does all of this because she has a passion for sharing the outdoors with people—Alaskans, Americans, people from all over the world, but especially the next generation. And she hopes that her work not only will have an immediate impact on the environment, but helps people to understand the challenges of our oceans and to focus more on clean-up, because who doesn't want to clean up our oceans?  

Local businesses, she's noting, are using more recyclable material. People are leaving less trash behind. People are talking more about clean-up, ownership, and that's how you make a difference at the local level. It spreads out all over the state and the country.

Beth said, “I hope that through my work, we can provide the opportunities to understand and appreciate nature. I'm proud of where I live. I love Homer, and I want to take care of it. And I hope others in the community feel that way too.” 

Beth, that is a great sentiment, and it's also one of the many reasons we are proud to honor you today with this very prestigious award, being our Alaskan of the Week. Congratulations. 

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