Q&A with Audubon Leader Taldi Walter: Alaska!
Audubon Nature Odysseys discusses the magnificence of Alaska with Taldi Walter, National Audubon’s Assistant Director of Government Relations, whose work focuses on Alaska policy initiatives. She'll be leading our annual Alaska program, July 11 - 19, 2012.
Audubon Nature Odysseys: Taldi, welcome! We’re gearing up for our summer adventure in Alaska. Being our Alaskan-born Audubon leader for this journey, you have plenty of insights on the glory of Alaska travel. Why do you think Alaska is an important destination for nature lovers?
Taldi: Alaska is filled with boundless adventure. The land of the midnight sun is filled with endless mountains, valleys, rivers, glaciers, flowers, and incredible wildlife. Alaska is nature at its best and most accessible.
ANO: Travel in Alaska is ideal for people of all speeds and capabilities, right? Can you tell us your favorite “mellow” and “active” things to do in Alaska?
Taldi: Just driving or taking the train along the Seward Highway yields amazing wildlife viewing opportunities and breathtaking vistas. From your seat you will undoubtedly see Beluga Whales, Eagles, Sheep, Moose, and maybe even a bear. If activity is what you crave, you can jump in a raft and fish for salmon, or hike one of the many peaks, or get lock into crampons and walk on a Glacier. The opportunities for outdoor recreation in Alaska are infinite.
ANO: What are the birds to look out for on this journey?
Taldi: As you know birds are very unpredictable, but a few "near-guarantees" are Red-faced and Pelagic Cormorant, Willow Ptarmigan, Mew and Glaucous-winged Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Common Murre, and Horned and Tufted Puffin. There’s also a possibility to spy a Red-throated Loon, Spotted Sandpiper, Rough-legged Hawk, or Marbled Murrelet.
ANO: Mt. McKinely in Denali National Park is the tallest peak in North America. Have you made it to the top?
Taldi: Only in my dreams! In 2011 there were 1,232 climbers that attempted North America’s tallest mountain with 52% or 687 reaching the top. Maybe someday I’ll join the few brave souls that get to soak up the view from 20,320 feet!
ANO: We LOVE to eat at Audubon Nature Odysseys. Tell us about Alaskan cuisine.
Taldi: Fresh and unique. For the foodies out there, you can’t beat fresh caught Alaska salmon, with all 5 species of Pacific Salmon being found in Alaska, we’ll enjoy Honey-Lacquered King Salmon for one of our meals. There are endless ways to enjoy this omega rich food, including such zany things as salmon quesadillas and salmon chocolate! Alaskan king crab, scallops, and Halibut are also on the top of the list, and you’ll have an opportunity to indulge in these special treats on the trip. In Anchorage one of my favorite quick lunch options is a Reindeer Sausage from one of the corner stands. For the beer connoisseurs there are many microbreweries in Alaska so there are endless local options for washing down the amazing food we’ll be eating.
ANO: As National Audubon’s Assistant Director of Government Relations focusing on Alaska policy initiatives, what conservation issues have been at the forefront of your work?
Taldi: For the last five and half years I’ve worked to conserve the spectacular natural ecosystems of Alaska with a focus on birds and wildlife, and their habitats. Audubon’s science based approach to conservation in Alaska focuses on a number of the grandest and most threatened landscapes. I work to protect key ecologically important watersheds in the Tongass National Forest, wildlife hotspots in Alaska’s Arctic, both on-and offshore, including the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, key sites within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and internationally significant wildlife resources and habitats in the Bering, Beaufort, and Chukchi seas.
ANO: We’re going to end on a light note. As a mandolin player, will you grace our Audubon travelers with some tunes around the campfire?
Taldi: I guess they’ll have to join us on our once-in-a-lifetime Alaskan Adventure to find out!
ANO: Thanks, Taldi!