Meet the AFW Steering Group

Jim Kowalsky, Chair

After a career of teaching music in public schools and colleges, and symphony orchestra trumpet performance, Jim joined his close friend, the late Gordon Wright, as well as colleagues G. Ray Bane and Jim Hunter, to open the Fairbanks Environmental Center (now the Northern Alaska Environmental Center) in 1971. Jim served as the first executive director. 

In the mid 70s, Jim became the Alaska Field Representative for Friends of the Earth, and worked for the late David R. Brower to help push the Alaska National Interest Conservation Act  (ANILCA) into law. Passed in 1980, ANILCA created more than 100 million acres of new national parks and wildlife refuges in Alaska.

Jim also served as director of a subsistence advocacy program for the Tanana Chiefs Conference, and as program director for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Rural Alaska Honors Institute, a summer residency, college-prep program for rural Alaska Native high school honors students. During all this, Jim maintained his musical performance, serving 44 seasons as a trumpet player with the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and playing in more than 100 villages over his 30 tours with the Arctic Chamber Orchestra. 

Jim has Bachelors and Masters Degrees from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and is a 49 year resident of Fairbanks. He was recently awarded the Alaska Conservation Foundation’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award for his long history of conservation work.

Fran Mauer

Fran grew up in west-central Minnesota, where early in life, he began to wonder what his homeland in the Great Plains was like when vast herds of bison and other wildlife dominated the landscape.  He came to Alaska in 1971, seeking to experience the real wildness that had been lost from the Great Plains, and attending graduate school at the University of Alaska, where he earned a MS in zoology.

In 1974 Fran began his professional career as a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska. From 1976 to 1980 he was deeply involved in planning and legislative support for the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which set aside over 100 million acres as National Parks, Refuges, Wilderness Areas and Wild Rivers. 

For over 20 years starting in 1981, Fran studied caribou, Dall sheep, moose and birds of prey as a wildlife biologist in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge  Since retirement in 2002, Fran has become an outspoken advocate for wilderness. His writings have appeared in various media sources and publications, and he is the 2005 recipient of the Olaus Murie Award for outstanding professional contributions from the Alaska Conservation Foundation. Fran has also served several terms on the board of directors for Wilderness Watch and has represented Wilderness Watch in Alaska.  He recently became involved with others in efforts to organize Alaskans for Wildlife, which seeks to keep the natural diversity of Alaska’s wildlife, especially keystone predators, and to maintain Alaska’s original wildness.

Roy Catalano

Roy is a life-time wildlife protector and conservationist. He holds a biological science degree, and has also undertaken graduate work in biochemistry, medical research at Louisiana State University Medical School, and has pharmaceutical experience with four different companies. After retiring, Roy continued to be involved in wildlife protection, spending six years as a naturalist in Denali National Park with the Denali Education Center and forming a wildlife education volunteer group at the Park to inform visitors of wildlife behavior. 

For over fifteen years, Roy has volunteered in the drug testing program within the veterinarian group of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, traveling to all parts of the state. His company also sponsored the Iditarod. Recently, Roy also began leading international building trips for Global Village, a part of Habitat for Humanity, reaching out to many countries over the last 10 years.  He is also on the Leadership Circle Committee for Center for Biological Diversity. Roy resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Sean E. McGuire

Born in 1955 in Oakland, California, Sean’s first involvement in conservation was with his third grade class, raising $130 to save the Grand Canyon. He spent several years as a child in the late 60s-early 70s living a subsistence life with a family in the central Brooks Range in Alaska. In the spring of 1978, starting at the Yukon River Bridge in Alaska, Sean and his dog Sweden walked 7,400 miles in 310 days to Key West, Florida. The walk, which at the time was the longest walk in North America, was an effort to gain support for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which in 1980 set aside 100 million acres of land in Alaska as National Parks and Wildlife Refuges. The passing of ANILCA is considered the greatest conservation victory of the 20th century.

Sean spent five idyllic years living in the Brooks Range in the 1980s, but eventually left for Fairbanks to wage a war against aerial wolf hunting. He built and ran Cloudberry Lookout B&B, a 60-foot aurora-viewing tower that took seven years to complete, and against all conventional advice he talked politics every day over breakfast, educating guests about conservation. 

Besides his record of activism Sean also has an arrest record, having been arrested twice at the Nevada Test Site for civil disobedience as he was protesting the continued testing of nuclear weapons. In 2019 Sean also became a published author, finishing his novel, “Two Toes and the Magic Pack”, an epic story about aerial wolf hunting in northern Alaska.

These days, Sean, his wife Sharon and their German Shepherd, Puppyukyukpuk, divide their time between Fairbanks, Alaska and Terlingua, Texas. Sean continues to do battle on behalf of justice, the environment and wildlife

Frank Keim

Frank Keim is an educator, nature writer and environmental activist. He worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia for two years, as an anthropologist in Ecuador for four years, and as a secondary school teacher of Yup’ik Eskimos in Alaska’s Lower Yukon Delta for 21 years. 

Frank is a prolific author, who has contributed chapters to the books “Arctic Wings” and “The Last Frontier”, and published three poetry books, “Voices on the Wind” (2011), “Today I Caught Your Spirit” (2014), and “Trails Taken…so many still to take…” (2018). Frank has also published two books on Alaska’s rivers, “White Water Blue, Paddling and Trekking Alaska’s Wild Rivers” (2012), and “Down Alaska’s Wild Rivers” (2020). Both books feature stories from Frank’s adventures with family and friends down 23 different rivers. 

Now an elder, Frank lives north of Fairbanks, and still loves to hike, cross-country ski, and canoe in Alaska’s wild country. He continues to write poetry as well. For information on Frank’s books and how to order them, check out our Recommended Reading page.