Women In Conservation: Tessa Shetter

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Women In Conservation
Tessa is an angler and photographer living in Alaska, and a Stanley Brand Ambassador.

I think it’s safe to say that we all care about our planet and all that inhabit it, at least I hope I’m speaking for everyone!

Women In Conservation: Tessa Shetter

Living in Alaska, I could not imagine being unable to look out my window to see a moose munching happily on endless amounts of tree branches, bushes and berries; or walking through a field of fireweed to the river only to discover the absence of thousands of bright red salmon in their spawn. It’s become an expectation of where I live, something I have come to count on and deeply hope to remain.

As not only a person who loves to hunt, fish, camp, and do anything outdoors, but also as a person who lives in this place that gives me all those opportunities and more, I truly care about conservation and our environment.

Conservation is a large, sometimes complicated, and most of all important issue that we face as human beings. I believe that, sadly, we are a major cause of the environmental issues we face and we have a responsibility to recognize that and work toward rectifying it for the sake of our planet and our future generations that will inherit it.

I used to think that it was difficult to contribute to conservation. I observe people like Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, who focus huge efforts toward environmental issues through use of solar panels, electric cars, and planting countless trees. I am humbled by his generosity and feel intimidated by his impact in comparison to mine. Granted, he is a billionaire and I am not.

So, when I was a college student on a budget and didn’t have the funds to donate to the organizations I wanted to support, it left me feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. Something I learned though, through this experience, is that you don’t need loads of money to donate to organizations or groups (though it can greatly help), but rather that conscious effort to implement conservation as a mindset and incorporate it into daily routines, is just as valuable.

I realized that even seemingly small acts of being aware of what you are doing, the choices you are making, the actions you are taking and the views you are sharing, all make a bigger difference than you might originally think. Personally, I work hard to make sure I recycle, buy recycled and reusable products when I can, support purposeful organizations in any way I am able to, and simply make conservation into a lifestyle.

For example, I made the switch to using a Stanley water bottle rather than plastic water bottles years ago. I also bought some reusable shopping bags so I don’t have to use plastic grocery bags. Those changes may seem small and simple, but I know have large impacts, one person at a time.

I also strongly take conservation into mind when I’m hunting and fishing. I know it sounds silly, and I’ve had this conversation many times before, but believe it or not, those who hunt and fish are some of the largest supporters of conservation. In some respects, it may seem ironic, but it’s more than true.

In terms of myself, I try to do my part by practicing catch and release when I am fly-fishing. Even down to using barbless hooks (or smashing the barbs on my hooks) and limiting the time of the fight to lessen the stress and create an ease of release for the fish. Practicing these kinds of techniques help keep the fish population thriving. Having said that, I do on occasion catch certain salmon to keep as food, and I know many friends and family members who rely on those salmon every year to fill their freezers.

I firmly believe that if we didn’t have conservation efforts in place, it would greatly affect the lifestyles of many people. There are so many who rely on subsistence hunting and fishing to support them and their families.

I believe also that conservation efforts support the research and education that keep our fish and wildlife populations high, and provide safety and proper hunting and fishing techniques so others can do their part to contribute to the land and species.

An example of this is the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s Division of Wildlife Conservation that is focused solely on conservation efforts and research. It is through this program that myself and many others have taken the hunter’s education course, it is a great source for learning about Alaska’s fish and wildlife species. Being that the programs are offered through the state’s Department of Fish and Game, it is so easy to access and participate in them. If you have a moment, I recommend researching your own state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife to see what kind of conservation programs they may have to offer.

There are many, many, many other conservation organizations and groups that I love and support. One that I strongly support is Save Bristol Bay. The Pebble Mine has been a controversial conflict in my home state of Alaska for years now. I’m the type of person who likes to see both sides of things, where yes, the Pebble Mine could benefit in terms of available jobs and the income for the state. But, and there’s a huge “but” here, it would be at the cost of rivers, streams, and land that encompass the livelihoods of all sorts of people, creatures, fisheries and jobs that are already in place.

Guy Fishing

Many people who disagree with the Pebble Mine, such as myself, have signed the petition to help deny the Pebble Mine permit, and it took me less than a minute to participate in that conservation effort! I’m not here to get political, but I would like to offer this as another example of how you can make an impact, and how easy it really is to contribute to conservation.

Conservation is all about the big picture. As humans, we see ourselves at the top of the food chain. Which, sure, in some cases is true. Yet, as beings on this shared planet, we are equal to everyone and every creature that inhabit it, as our home, their home and all living beings' birthright. However, we are the ones most capable and able to take action to conserve and protect it.