It’s hard to believe that fall is here, winter is just around the corner and summer is already history.
There has been significant movement on two important land issues. Unfortunately our long-running legal battle over public access to Klutina Lake through our lands, and the return of sacred lands to the Village of Gulkana, is not over. Our Board rejected a proposed settlement with the state after taking into consideration comments from the affected villages in the region as well as reviewing the comments submitted to the state during the public comment period. While the parties made an earnest effort with the proposed settlement, the compromises to our private land use rights were simply not worth the certainty and other benefits of a negotiated resolution. We have posted a press release on our decision on our website, Ahtna-Inc.com/news.
We did reach agreement with the state over the Kotsina River delta, a popular subsistence and dipnetting site. The agreement clarifies ownership and gives us an easement to access our land on the north side of the river and to maintain protective dikes. Our chairman calls the settlement “a good deal.”
Our goal is to lower energy costs
With winter rapidly approaching, energy becomes top of mind again. Our Board, management and sister nonprofits will meet with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy this month to discuss what Ahtna and our nonprofits want in terms of energy development. We have an assortment of independent village energy projects already underway. We’ve invested in natural gas exploration, Chitina has its own electric utility and AFN is engaging in statewide energy development.
One potential fix is to tie into the grid along the Railbelt. Jason Hoke, executive director of the Copper Valley Economic Development Association, is spearheading this renewed effort, which includes Copper Valley Electric Cooperative, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Alaska Energy Authority, Alaska Village Electric Cooperative and local legislators.
Shoring up relations with our neighbors
As two national parks border our lands, it’s important to have a good relationship with our federal neighbors. We recently met with Don Stryker, superintendent of Denali National Park, and Ben Bobowski from Wrangell St. Elias National Park. On the agenda was subsistence, off-road recreational vehicle use, boundary changes and the Backcountry Plan. We currently have a Memorandum of Agreement with Wrangell St. Elias and are working on one with Denali.
Internally we have begun to plan and budget for 2018. I like to say that the Ahtna saying “Nts’e tkonii da ‘uzolyuun” – Be prepared for what might happen – is at the core of our thinking as we begin the strategic planning process. It is good to be reminded of the strength in the values that guide us as we work to build Ahtna into an even stronger corporation.
One way we prepare our company for further growth is to ensure our employees are well trained. To help us, we implemented a new learning management system for Ahtna employees. Employees can now complete their policy, compliance and safety training for the year in a manner that is more efficient and streamlined – and allows us to better track our training programs.
Ahtna’s West Sacramento and Irvine, California, offices hosted cordial open houses in August to give shareholder-owners and employees the opportunity to learn about current projects, contracts Ahtna is pursuing and potential shareholder-hire opportunities. Attendees enjoyed lunch and an informative presentation by Ahtna Government Services Corp. and Ahtna Design-Build President Craig O’Rourke. Brenda Rebne, President of Ahtna. Facility Services Inc. (AFSI), also provided a briefing in Sacramento on the current AFSI projects. California ranked third in the top revenue-generating states for Ahtna operational contracts last year, with Alaska and Texas ranking number one and two respectively.
Our California clients range from government entities to commercial clients like Arcadis and Parsons. I know staff appreciated the opportunity to connect with our shareholders in the area.
November is Alaska Native Heritage Month, a time to celebrate Alaska Native and American Indian Cultures and share our traditions and contributions.
It was an honor to help celebrate Traditional First Chief Fred Ewan’s 101st birthday. Fred was born at Crosswind Lake in 1916 to John and Katie Ewan (Tsisyu-Seagull Clan) and spent the last century living a traditional life. He became Traditional First Chief in 2014. This year we celebrated on August 12 and it was a day filled with laughter, delicious food and memories. If you weren’t able to attend, please visit the photo gallery posted on Ahtna’s Facebook page.
Finally, Ahtna historian Bill Simeone’s fascinating exploration of how tenes (trails) connected the Ahtna is well worth the read.
Michelle Anderson, President