nik-merlinoNik Merlino – President, McCarthy

Nik was born in Seattle, WA and began coming to Alaska in his youth with his father and brothers. He first came to the Copper Basin at 10 years old and over time found his way back to McCarthy where he lives with his family (wife Gina, daughter Cassidy, and son Dylan). Nik discovered his love of rivers while on a family raft trip on the Goodnews River in western Alaska when he was 11. Now Nik spends his personal and professional time exploring the rivers of the Wrangell Mountains and Copper Basin.

Pete Mickelson – Vice President, Cordova

Pete first arrived in Cordova by a 16-foot homemade cedar strip canoe in 1972. An avid birder, his background includes ornithological studies based in the Chugach National Forest as a Professor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Wildlife and Fisheries Program. Now enjoying semi-retirement, Pete leads an off-the-grid subsistence lifestyle in Cordova. He serves as a board member for the Cordova Chamber of Commerce, volunteers for the Shorebird Festival,  and writes novels that include an accurate natural history of the Copper River Delta. Pete believes that tourism is the bright future of the watershed.

Caitlin McKinstry – Secretary, Cordova

Caitlin received her MSc in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and joined the research staff of the PWSSC in 2011. Her role as a oceanographic research assistant has led her to all corners of Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska. The Copper River Delta and its health play an important role in her life as an avid forager, subsistence fisher, and conservationist. As a supporter, periodic volunteer, and now board member of the Watershed Project, Caitlin is excited to help further the mission of this important organization.

Matt Piche -Treasurer, Cordova

Matt Piché resides in the coastal community of Cordova and when not working on the Copper River and its delta he’s out recreating on it. Matt has a background in biochemistry, aquatic ecology and fish biology and a profession as a fish biologist for the Native Village of Eyak Department of the Environment and Natural Resources. His background and profession allow him to work with a diverse set of agencies and stakeholders to help ensure opportunities exist for robust fish populations to persist through periods of environmental and anthropogenic fluctuations. As a board member Matt hopes to give back to an organization that dedicates itself to protecting and promoting stewardship of a watershed that provides for so many Alaskans. Matt considers himself one of the fortunate few who can call the Copper River and its delta home.

Jackie McMahan – Board Member, Gakona

Jackie believes the Copper River valley is a truly special place for a child to grow up and that is why her family settled in Gakona nearly ten years ago. She loves the freedom of space and opportunity for outdoor experiences offered in the Copper River valley and she appreciates that salmon are an important part of her Alaskan lifestyle. She hopes to do her part to help Alaska protect an irreplaceable salmon resource.

David Saiget – Board Member, Cordova

David is a fisheries biologist and a commercial gillnet fisherman from Cordova. David first came to Cordova in 1983 to fish and began his career as a fisheries biologist in 1992 with ADFG and the US Forest Service in Cordova. He currently owns and operates his own aquatic sciences consulting company, and in 2013, he began direct-marketing his catch, providing Copper River salmon to the public. He feels fortunate to be able to work as a scientist in the watershed and to also be able to catch and provide what he feels is the world’s best salmon, from one of the most unique and pristine watersheds in the world. David has three children ages 28, 26, & 12, and lives with his wife Darcy in Cordova.

Kate Wilson – Board Member, Copper Basin

Kate was born in Daytona Beach, Florida. While growing up, members of her family,  including her Grandparents, lived in Alaska. She remembers as a child, seeing her Grandfather carefully unloading fish boxes while explaining the different types of salmon and his favorite ways to catch them in Alaska.  Kate was given the opportunity to come up to Alaska for a summer job and has been here ever since. She has an interest in water treatment along with an operators license. Her current job offers great experience in providing knowledge of the wildlife, fish and habitat that surrounds her home in the Copper basin and has served to create a deep understanding of the importance of its preservation.

A message from a former Board President

“I came to the Copper River Valley in 1975 and was one of those ‘newcomers.’ Over the years I have seen changes in the communities and have watched many more newcomers arrive harboring the same feelings I have…a love for the beautiful mountains and country, rural community atmosphere, friendly neighbors, few people, clean environment, a ‘country life.'”

“Over the years there have been changes. Some were gradual, and some happened all of a sudden. The construction of the Alyeska pipeline; the designation of the Wrangell Mountains as a National Park and Preserve; the Park Service acquiring Kennicott Mining District; the Gulkana River becoming the king salmon capitol of Southcentral Alaska, to name a few. More recently, I have seen 11 new residences on the short 12-mile stretch of road I live on; development of a Princess Tours lodge on the bluffs of the Klutina River; residents having to use a bike path along the Edgerton Highway because of increased tourist traffic; plans to pave the McCarthy road; talk of paving the Denali Highway; talk of constructing a road and/or trail from Chitina to Cordova; and increased commercial events such as extreme skiing and snow machine races.”

“I am not sure if all these changes are good or bad. But in light of them more changes will follow. I would like to have a voice in our destiny. Growth is inevitable. I cherish this sacred place we call the Copper River Valley and want to see it grow in a healthy way. That is why I am a member of the Copper River Watershed Project. I believe that if we all work together, we can grow together in a way that will maintain our cherished values that attracted us here in the first place.”

“The Copper River Watershed Project gives us that forum to work from. The CRWP is willing to help with projects that the community determines are important to keep our lifestyles. Join me in becoming a member of the CRWP and be a voice for our community.”

Janelle Eklund, Kenny Lake
former CRWP President

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