Matthew Varner | Wasilla
Alaska Fisheries and Riparian Program Leader, Bureau of Land Management

“Challenging conventional wisdom and the status quo is critical to adapting and evolving our understanding of natural systems and how we utilize them,” affirms Matthew Varner. “Change is difficult but I have worked throughout my career to be an agent of change regarding fisheries and riparian resource conservation.”

Varner has worked over the last ten years as the fisheries and riparian program leader for Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-Alaska, engaged in significant fisheries conservation issues ranging from the remediation of the Red Devil Mine on the Kuskokwim River to enhancing understanding of mined stream restoration techniques in Alaska.  As the program leader for fisheries in Alaska, he spends a great deal of time trying to ensure that land uses that could impact aquatic habitats are minimized and that those habitats remain productive into the future; a role that requires a good understanding of natural systems, as well as human dynamics.

Varner believes that becoming an Alaska Salmon Fellow will allow him to continue his leadership growth within his field of expertise, which he describes as an extremely unique experience. “Typically biologists pursue leadership growth or professional development on separate but parallel tracks. Being able to align these two goals within the Salmon Fellow program is exciting.” Varner, who has been through two leadership programs in the BLM, places a high value on relationships and networks.  “My leadership training has emphasized being an agent of change within the organization and leveraging networks.” He brings a solid background of building trust and implementing change that would be further enhanced through the program and collaboration with other Fellows.

Working in the fisheries field for many years at one of the largest land management agencies in Alaska, Varner understands how agencies interact, how policies are developed, how funding is allocated on the ground, and how the federal bureaucracy works.  He has excelled in this environment, receiving awards from the BLM Director and Secretary of the Interior for his exceptional contribution and commitment to public service.