Alaska Department of Law chief assistant attorney receives Smokey Bear award
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska Department of Law Chief Assistant Attorney Anne Nelson received the Bronze Smokey Bear Award for her contribution to statewide wildfire prevention efforts.
The National Association of State Foresters issued a press release Wednesday announcing the names of the five 2021 award recipients, which includes Nelson.
“Wildfire prevention remains as relevant today as it was 77 years ago when the Smokey Bear campaign began,” said Ad Council Chief Campaign Development Officer Michelle Hillman. “Keeping our forests safe from unplanned and unwanted fires takes exceptional dedication, and we congratulate this year’s awardees for this well-deserved recognition.”
Nelson is recognized for her role in the passage of House Bill 355 by the Alaska Legislature in 2018. The bill modernized Alaska’s Wildland Fire Prevention Statutes and Regulations.
“Anne’s hard work over the past several years championing the state’s new wildland fire statutes and regulations has helped lead the Division of Forestry’s wildland fire prevention program into a new era and will have a tremendous impact on reducing the number of human-caused wildland fires in Alaska,” said Division of Forestry Fire and Aviation Chief Norm McDonald. “Her diligence and attention to detail during the legislative process have really set us up for a successful program.”
Nelson updated the original statutes to enhance wildfire prevention efforts in the wildland-urban interface, which is the zone between unoccupied land and human development. The release said that is where humans start more than 80% of wildfire in the state.
The original statutes Nelson modified were adopted in 1961 when the state’s population was approximately one-third its size compared to today. The U.S. Census Bureau reported the Alaska population to be 226,167 in 1960. As of 2020, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development said the population is 728,903.
In addition to her legislative efforts, a Department of Natural Resources press release issued on Friday said, she helped draft the regulations to implement the new law, its prevention and enforcement authorities.
The new law helped restructure compliance and enforcement aspects of the wildland fire prevention program. The changes included options and prevention tools, such as fines for non-criminal minor offenses. The original laws only afforded the issuing of a criminal citation for all burning violations.
Those regulations were also the kickoff for the forestry division’s public education campaign, “Take Time to LEARN Before You Burn.” The program introduced the new mascot, Spruce the Moose.
The natural resources release said Nelson was surprised to receive the award.
“I’m honored to be recognized with a Smokey Bear Award, but the real reward is knowing that the dedicated professionals in the Alaska Division of Forestry’s wildland fire prevention program have legal support and resources to educate the public, prevent fires from starting, and when appropriate, initiate enforcement action,” Nelson said. “The program helps protect Alaskans — including its wildland firefighters — from the devastating effects of wildland fire.”
The award program has been managed by the National Association of State Foresters, Ad Council and U.S. Forest Service since the mid-1950s.
The 2021 Smokey Bear Awards will be presented at the 2021 NASF Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 9, 2021.
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