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'King-Maker' Awardee Feels Deep Connection to Land and Sea

Hannah Heimbuch

Hannah Heimbuch relates her sense of place in acceptance speech.

Earlier this week KBBI told you about Hannah Heimbuch, the Homer fisherman now living in Kodiak who was recognized by the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust with its “Kingmaker Award.”

According to KHLT’s announcement of the winner, the Kingmaker award is given to someone who is “making a difference for salmon.” In addition to commercial fishing, Heimbuch works as the Alaska Marine Conservation Council’s community fisheries organizer, and advocates for protecting salmon habitat and fishing sustainably.

Due to technical difficulties at the time, we couldn’t bring you any of Heimbuch’s acceptance address to the KHLT at its virtual meeting, however, those difficulties have been overcome, so here’s an excerpt from her talk about connection to place and habitat:

"I am accused by my father and other fishermen of over-romanticizing these experiences as a fisherman, but I actually think that we're more often guilty of woefully under-romanticizing those moments. So I stand by them and I think even the saltiest fishermen among us actually full-well know how special that connection to wild places or they wouldn't choose to do half the foolish and wonderful things they do on the water or in the woods.

"But anyhow, I keep telling this small story about feeling very peaceful and cradled on the Kasilof River partly because I think the Kasilof is a wonderful place to focus habitat conservation work, partly because I think focusing on conservation in our own backyards is an absolutely wonderful way to approach a global need for healthy habitat, partly because I think we need to recognize the connections between natural resource livelihoods like fishing and conservation work which should be integrally connected and because I think celebrating and sharing personal connection to place is one of the absolute best tools for nurturing real and lasting stewardship. And I think we all have those stories to share.

"But I also share this story tonight as an example of the connection to natural landscapes and natural abundance that abundance that I would feel at night on the river. Just feeling it thriving all around me that connection that I hope we can all continue to work together to seek out as individuals. To listen closely to that habitat and hold that space in trust for humanity both through the literal conservation work that places like KHLT does yes, but but perhaps even more importantly today through our intentional experience in wild places and the connection that offers to place and a planet.

"And I think this can be a walk in the woods, it can be time spent in your own garden, in the respectful harvest of wild plants and animals sitting on rocks on the beach, climbing a tree. You know, whatever makes you feel at home and part of what's wild. And I feel really really lucky as a fisherman in the modern age to get to experience that kind of connection to the land and the ocean as a provider for my livelihood, my family's food, my identity, my purpose, that connection to place is absolutely critical to my ability to thrive in this world. And I know it is to yours, too.

"And I want that to be available to others and to everyone really. But sometimes the best thing we can do is to be better stewards of the planet. We are fortunate enough to occupy, steward its well-being close to the center of where we experience those moments of connection, except it's gifts in the form of berries or salmon or sunrises or venison or safe harbor or whatever it offers you. And retell those stories of connection and stewardship over and over and over again in an actual storytelling by sharing food by sharing adventures and field trips and education and just remind others that nature offers us the tools and fortitude for self-sufficiency, for wonder and for purpose that we are too often removed from, and remind others that that we are indeed an un-severable part of this landscape and that ultimately the land does want us back too.

"And though we have news of climate destruction and pandemics and food shortages and drought. We absolutely can still hold space for that knowledge that nature is fundamentally abundant, adaptive, resilient, joyous and powerful in its inherent wisdom and creativity and it's up to us to protect that gift and find a place within it."

Jay Barrett, KBBI's new News Director should be a familiar voice to our listeners. He's been contributing to Kenai Peninsula news for the last three years out of KDLL Kenai, and was the voice of The Alaska Fisheries Report from KMXT for 12 years. Jay worked for KBBI about 20 years ago as the Central Peninsula Reporter at KDLL.