By Joe Bovee, VP of Land and Resources, Ahtna, Incorporated
In 2010, Ahtna filed a trespass lawsuit in federal court against a local Gakona resident. Since the mid-1960s the Gakona resident had trespassed on former Gakona and Ahtna lands amassing junk vehicles, snow machines, scrap metal, metal barrels, dilapidated building structures, and vast amounts of unidentified materials. Ahtna prevailed in court a year later, but was not granted any monetary consideration to clean up the property.
In 2017, the Native Village of Gakona identified potentially hazardous waste and requested funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through their Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (IGAP) Environmental Coordinator. Over the previous three years, the Gakona Village staff had worked tirelessly to conduct hazardous waste assessments to eventually cleanup the property, including the subsurface contaminates.
During 2019 and 2020, the Gakona crew and Ahtna Land Department made numerous trips to the local landfill with over 300 tires and contracted removal of 198 vehicles, 58 snow machines and numerous scrap metal parts and pieces.
Ahtna’s environmental cleanup efforts are scheduled to continue in 2021 at Bear Valley and Suslota access near Mentasta.