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Meet Alaska’s Most Interesting Lobbyist
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Meet Alaska’s Most Interesting Lobbyist
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Chris Hill is an angler, a lobbyist, and an environmental activist based in Haines, Alaska. Where I Belong, from Wondercamp Productions and the Outbound Collective, tracks Hill’s affection for wilderness, what she’s doing to defend it, and how she’s inspiring other people of marginalized populations into the outdoors.
[MUSIC PLAYING] CHRIS HILL: There is a lot of things that go into the process of even just getting to the river. It's intense sometimes.
What rods do you want? What flies? You got the emergency bag?
Should we bring a net? No, we don't need a net. OK, let's get the net.
Waders, boots, wading belt, flies, hat, sunglasses. Are we ready? Did you get a water bottle?
Drive to the river, back up the boat. Put all of the stuff in the boat. Put our waders on, pair of boots on. Push the boat out, start the engine, and we're ready to go, finally.
That's like what goes through our head.
My name's Chris Hill. I am an environmentalist and an angler and a lover of the outdoors.
Growing up, I really did not like being outside at all. Oh my god, like there's too many bugs and things that could bite you. It was just-- it was horrible.
In middle school, my mom, she says, Chris, you're going to go to this camp this summer, and you're gonna have fun. And I was like, this is all outside. Oh my gosh, and I fell in love with it. Like I came back home and I said, Mom, I want to do it for the rest of the summer. And then every summer after that, I went to Camp Calleva. They really taught me not only about like getting outside and enjoying, but also conserving and conservation work.
GREG SCHLACHTER: Uh oh. Chris, I may need your help netting this guy.
CHRIS HILL: Oh, nice.
GREG SCHLACHTER: Here we go. Here we go. Here we go.
CHRIS HILL: Oh, nice. Wow! Oh!
That is a beast. Good job, bud.
GREG SCHLACHTER: Oh my god, you got wet.
CHRIS HILL: I know. It literally splashed me five times.
INTERVIEWER: So who is Greg?
CHRIS HILL: Greg's my boyfriend.
GREG SCHLACHTER: Greg Schlachter. And Chris is my girlfriend.
INTERVIEWER: Is there any like fun facts about Chris that we may not know about her?
GREG SCHLACHTER: I'm sure you heard all of them. Like her favorite color is purple. She has a bunny named Francis. And she generally out fishes me. That would probably be the-- well, she's probably told you that too.
CHRIS HILL: He's my fishing partner, you know? He's my fishing buddy. It is fun experiencing it with Greg, but we both get competitive. And that's when it gets a little irritating.
Greg, why would you do that?
GREG SCHLACHTER: You're casting right in front of me.
CHRIS HILL: There was a fish there.
GREG SCHLACHTER: You can't cross the streams.
I've been fly fishing a lot longer than she has. But she's super fishy, and she takes it very, very seriously. This isn't a hobby that she picked up because I like to fish, you know what I mean? There's a lot of times when she likes to fish more than I do.
CHRIS HILL: I love fishing and I love catching fish, but I also just love being out there. It's just-- it's so pretty. It's like you're sitting amongst these huge peaks on each side of you. It's just a place where you're like, wow, wow, and you can't stop saying wow, right? It's really hard to find those very quiet places anymore, and this is definitely one of them.
[WIND CHIMES RINGING]
So when I went to law school I went specifically for environmental law and human rights law. If you look at the history of the environmental movement, and the conservation movement in particular, it wasn't necessarily about the people. And so I wanted to try to make that connection.
Oh, Jordan, this spreadsheet is really good.
JORDAN (ON VIDEO CALL): Chris is like a spreadsheet queen. So if she says that someone else's spreadsheet is really good, then that means it's like sick.
CHRIS HILL: So I've been a lobbyist for a decade. Sometimes I don't like to say I'm a lobbyist, because they always think you're working for big corporations or-- it's just a bad name, right? But I'm an environmental lobbyist.
How is the California bills?
MAN (ON VIDEO CALL): We're good. I mean, we've gained a lot of ground. Were you on the California call?
CHRIS HILL: One thing that we struggle with is not to be alarmists. But all that should be said, like we are seeing report after report saying we either have to act very aggressively, or we're going to be really sorry.
Growing up and doing a lot of outdoor activities, I never saw anybody look like me, ever. I never even saw people who looked like me in magazines. I'm just now seeing that, right?
I've had multiple comments that are like, there's no black people fishing. That's a white person thing. Or are you actually-- are you black? I'm like, what? Yes. Like, what?
I think where it is challenging is when you are in spaces, and you don't feel safe. That has definitely happened to me a number of times, where I have legitimately not felt safe in a place that I should feel safe, because it feels like home. It is really sad, too, that people think other people shouldn't be there or shouldn't have access to places.
Even just being a woman, there's times when I would be out with my girlfriends fishing, and guys will be like, who are you with? Like are you with somebody else? Like why are you here by yourself? Or they'll literally walk through the hole we're fishing at with our lines in the water. Like just crazy stuff like that, you know? And then as a person of color, it's just compounded on top of that.
What I love about fishing is it's another way to let your mind escape and not think about the things that are happening in the world or our climate crisis.
There we go. Ready to go fishing. Gonna catch the coho on this guy.
GREG SCHLACHTER: All right.
CHRIS HILL: But it's a time just to stop thinking and focus on, would a fish be right there? I think a fish would be right there.
I feel like this is where I belong. And it makes me feel alive I guess is what I would say. That's what nature really brings to me.
So I primarily use Instagram. The cool thing about this platform is that it has been a place for me to see other people who do the same thing that I do, that I would have never known before. You're like, oh cool, that gal in color is totally killing it on the river. I have no idea who she is. I'm going to DM her.
Come on, Greg.
And it's been really amazing to see a bunch of people of color in the outdoors really putting a lot of energy into representation and equity. That I think is the coolest part about social media.
People who are of marginalized communities have just banded together and said, we're going to do it ourselves. We're going to create space in the outdoors for people who look like us. And we're going to do it together, and we're going to create this really cool beautiful community to support each other. And that creates a sense of connection to the natural world.
GREG SCHLACHTER: Yep.
CHRIS HILL: You got it?
GREG SCHLACHTER: No, not really. Dive on it.
CHRIS HILL: Ow, ow, my finger. Go!
GREG SCHLACHTER: It's OK.
CHRIS HILL: The conservation movement, back in the day, it was all a bunch of old white people, like old white dudes. And now, it's transitioning into this very cool young movement. I think that is the future of the environmental movement and the conservation movement. Yeah! There's a lot of cool shit happening right now. There's a lot of really cool stuff happening.
Yes, it is go time, right, with our climate crisis. It is time to act, and people are stepping up to the plate.
There's a sense of advocacy here. And so I'm super optimistic. That's what we got to be.