Hydaburg Mayor Anthony Christianson is this year’s winner of the Susan Ruddy Community-Based Conservation Award. The Alaska chapter of The Nature Conservancy gives the annual award as recognition for work within a community focusing on preserving nature. Christianson’s work for over a decade within the Haida community on Prince of Wales Island has earned him this honor.
Anthony or “Tony” Christianson is the leader of the natural resources program for the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, and has worked with the Haida tribe for about 16 years. Through his work, he’s helped form a rather driven group of Haida members working together to evaluate and protect nearby streams and land that the entire community depends on.
“Well, you know the Hydaburg Community itself is pretty conservation-minded. You know, we have a large reliance on the natural resources for food and shelter and heat. And so it only seemed right that we focus on developing programs that make sure that we have a long-term sustainability for the resources we need and that they stay largely healthy.”
Christianson refuses to take full credit for the conservation work, citing it as a community-run program. However, Norman Cohen, a Nature Conservancy scientist who worked with Christianson, says inspiring so many fully-invested community volunteers truly requires someone who has the drive and charisma to inspire others for the future.
“Well, in a lot of cases a charismatic leader is necessary to catalyze a community, a group, an organization into action and he’s certainly filled that role in spades in Hydaburg.”
This isn’t Christianson’s first award. There’s all the federal grants for local projects as well as the personal awards, including one from the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament in Juneau, where event organizers recognized his work with kids as a coach and role model in the Hydaburg community.
However, Christianson says the real reward will come later, when Hydaburg continues to thrive because of all the work put in by the community.
“The award itself, I really appreciate all the recognition, but the recognition for me is when Hydaburg is on the map and they speak highly of our community. That’s reward enough for me.”