Verner Wilson III
Dillingham | Senior Oceans Campaigner, Friends of the Earth

“Salmon has always been an integral part of Alaska’s identity. During the territorial days, the mismanagement of our salmon encouraged Alaskans to fight for statehood. As a renewable resource that is important for so many across Alaska, salmon will continue to be important part of Alaska’s future, as long as we take care of the resource.”

Verner Wilson III, Senior Oceans Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, was born and raised in Dillingham.  He has been a commercial, sport and subsistence salmon fisherman since he started set-netting in Clark’s Point when he was around five years old.  His grandfather immigrated to Bristol Bay from Finland to fish for salmon in the 1930s; his grandmother was Yup’ik from the area, and his ancestors fished there for thousands of years.  As a member of the Curyung Tribe, Wilson was taught the values of protecting resources for future generations.  “I have tried to live up to that my entire life,” he explains.

 

After graduating from high school, Wilson spent a summer as an intern for former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens in Washington, DC before enrolling at Brown University where he earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies.  Following college, he worked as a Program Officer at World Wildlife Fund and as Interim Director at Nunamta Aulukestai “Caretakers of our Lands” in Anchorage, before returning to earn a Master in Environmental Management from Yale University.  While in school, he spent a summer interning with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and worked as a research assistant at Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and as the Graduate Student Coordinator at Yale Native American Cultural Center.  Wilson worked as a contractor for United Tribes of Bristol Bay in Washington, DC and Seattle before returning to Dillingham in the winter of 2016. “My professional work has been dedicated to conserve our salmon,” explains Wilson. “Wherever I go, I think of myself as an advocate for salmon, and because of that I was nicknamed ‘Senator Salmon’ in graduate school.”

 

Wilson currently serves on the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative Steering Committee and is part of the Western Alaska Salmon Coalition; he is a member of the United Fishermen of Alaska, and serves as a volunteer for Alaska Youth for Environmental Action.  He previously served on the board of the Alaska Conservation Foundation and the Western Mining Action Network Steering Committee.  He was awarded the President’s Youth Environmental Award in 2006 and the Alaska Conservation Foundation’s Denny Wilcher ‘Young Activist’ Award in 2004.