Lands Spotlight

Published January 2018

Left to right: Trenton Culp, Katie Finnesand (intern featured in fall 2017 issue), Ray Stickwan, Sarah Sherwood, Joe Bovee, Marilyn Eskilida Joe & John Leonhart.

The Ahtna people have been managing the land and natural resources on a sustained yield basis before there was ever such a term. Recently, western science is becoming more aware of the importance of native, or indigenous, science as a means to gauge acceptable practices for fish, wildlife and plant harvesting. Essentially the native knowledge has been used and proven to be so effective that renowned western scientists are utilizing Native American management systems across entire ecosystems.

The Ahtna Land Department is currently staffed with six full-time, two seasonal and one intern position and respect and appreciate the customary and traditional knowledge the native elders, customary and traditional committee, land committee and tribal members are willing to share. Although the written history may be limited, the oral history is always beneficial in learning how the Ahtna managed their lands and resources in the past.

“I have been in the land and natural resource field for nearly forty years and there isn’t a day that goes by that myself, or staff, learn something new from the Ahtna people about how they managed the resources.”
– Joe Bovee, Ahtna, Inc. Vice President of Land and Resources

Today the Land Department is as much about managing the land as it is about managing the users. Approximately 10,000 fisherman, 10,000 hunters and over 500,000 tourists visit the Ahtna Region annually. Typically the Land Department issues 1,000 permits annually for such activities as land crossing, camping, per-head fees from commercial users, predator control, photography and a special bison hunt accessible primarily on Ahtna land south of Copper Center. Approximately 25% of these permits are purchased online through an automated process. Other website features offer users to view interactive land status maps and download the imagery and coordinates onto their personal devices to reduce trespass by knowing their location at all times. The Land Department has the most extensive land status (ownership) records in the Region and shareholders are invited to contact staff to assist in locating land records and survey monumentation as needed.

The Land Department administers over 75 property leases and easements for cellphone towers, tour companies, pipelines and housing leases with various tribes and housing authorities as well as managing 92 active sand and gravel material sites. The Merger Land Use Program, or MLUP, was implemented during the 1980 Merger Agreement with seven of the eight Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Ahtna Region Village Corporations and typically the Department finalizes 10-20 MLUP applications each year.

More recently the Land Department has been instrumental in assisting with development of the Forest Carbon Project, with field and reporting operations ultimately being managed by the department for the next one hundred years; Village natural resource development plans; moose, caribou and carnivore stewardship planning and population surveys; and greater collaboration with the Ahtna Inter-Tribal Resource Commission (AITRC).

2018 Projects
In 2018 some of the top priorities for the department will be completion of an in-house customary and traditional land use map to include: Ahtna trails, historic fishwheel and village sites, etc.; installation of highway interpretive signs of the Ahtna people, culture and Region; a Transportation Plan and public trail funding; and negotiations with the State of Alaska on the proposed 33-mile natural gas pipeline through Ahtna land near Cantwell.

More information, forms, applications and services provided to Shareholders can be found on the Ahtna website or by contacting Land Department staff at (907) 822-3476.

Meet the Land & Resources Team

Joe Bovee, Land and Resource Vice President
I have more than 30 years of U.S and international resource management and marketing experience. As the Vice President of Land and Resources, I oversee the nearly 1.8 million acres of Ahtna’s land in Southcentral Alaska. Prior to joining Ahtna, I worked for various state and federal agencies as well as private sector natural resource companies. My career has focused on operations, regulatory policy and responsible development. I earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a Certificate of Forestry from the University of Alaska-Kenai Peninsula Campus. I am based out of Ahtna’s Corporate Headquarters in Glennallen along with the rest of the department. I have two sons and enjoy hunting, fishing, art and travel.

John Leonhart, Land and Resource Manager
I had previously served as an Ahtna, Inc. Natural Resource Technician prior to applying for the position of Land and Resources Department Manager. I have a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and a Master of Science in Wildlife Biology with over 21-years of natural resource management experience. My prior work experience was primarily focused on biological surveys for major resource development projects in the western U.S. I now supervise 6-8 seasonal and full-time Natural Resource Technician staff, as well as serve as a project lead for various wildlife, forestry and natural resource projects.

I was born and raised in North Dakota where I developed a deep appreciation for everything in the natural environment. My parents were extremely influential in shaping my future hobbies and interests which include hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, mountain biking, trapshooting and anything else that keeps me occupied outdoors. I have also managed to make a career out of these interests. I am happy to be working for the Ahtna people and the Ahtna, Inc. Land and Resources Department in particular. The land management aspects and wildlife projects we have planned for the future provide plenty of excitement and opportunity for myself and the entire Land and Resources staff.

Tammany George, Ahtna NRT, Cantwell

Tammany George, Natural Resource Technician
I am an Ahtna shareholder who was raised in Cantwell, Alaska. My mother is Eleanor Dementi from Cantwell of the Udizyu clan and my Father is the late Gilbert Dementi Sr. from Shageluk of the Deg Xinag clan. The land and our cultural and traditional values are what is most important to me for the future. Protecting the rights to use Ahtna lands to survive for the Ahtna descendants is my passion. I can’t remember a year growing up and in my adult life where we as a family have not used the land to survive. We hunt, fish, berry pick and gather more than half of our food from the land.

I worked for Ahtna from 2006-2010 as a Land Protection Officer (LPO) in Cantwell. I then worked for Ahtna Facility Services until the job reopened in February of 2016 here in Cantwell. I was more than blessed by Ahtna to be able to return to Cantwell and take the position of Natural Resource Technician.

Trenton Culp, Natural Resource Technician
I earned Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science with a Wildlife Management emphasis and a minor in Physical Geography. I attended Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Prior to college I worked on cattle ranches doing predator control. While attending college, I worked for South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks as a habitat biologist intern helping create habitat plans. After graduating college, I moved to Idaho and was an on-call wildland forest firefighter while also working as the manager of a large-scale aquaculture facility. In late April, I drove the Alcan Highway and moved to Alaska to work for Ahtna.

In my spare time I enjoy hunting, fly fishing, kayaking, hiking, ATV riding and trapping. I grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming where I took advantage of the abundant wildlife and outdoor opportunities around me. I hope to continue my outdoor pastimes here in Alaska and expand on them as well. I have always been an avid outdoorsman and sportsmen. I enjoy working in the wildlife field and helping to preserve nature and the animals in it for the people of today to use and treasure as well as future generations to come.

Sarah Sherwood, Natural Resource Technician
I have worked for the Land Department since October 2015. I have helped collaborate with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and was lead on several wildlife habitat and forestry projects around the Copper Basin region. I am currently working towards becoming a certified conservation planner and a Technical Service Provider, specializing in Forest Management Planning. I graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources Conservation and Forestry. I worked as a wildland firefighter on an engine crew in Montana and California for three seasons, then stayed in California another year working as a utility forester assessing hazardous trees. Right before coming to work at Ahtna, I went overseas to Botswana, Africa to study African wildlife and human-wildlife conflicts.

In my free time, I like to read, hunt, fish, ski, ride ORV’s, and just relax. I got married this past summer to Noble Sherwood, who worked at Ahtna for about 7 years. He is self-employed as a logger and I help out at our woodlot when I’m available. I have lived in Alaska for a little over two years now and love it.

Ray Stickwan, Natural Resource Technician
I am an Ahtna shareholder and a Kluti-Kaah Tribal member. I have nearly 40 years’ experience in the public safety field. Just some of my varied experience has included serving as a Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) Supervisor, Airport Police/Fire/EMS Officer, Alaska Dept. of Public Safety Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Officer and a Military Police/Investigator with the U.S. Army which took me all the way to Germany. My interest in law enforcement started at a young age when I was one of six Glennallen High School Students chosen to participate in the student program to learn basic Law Enforcement and department policy and procedures. I have designed entire safety and health programs for state and private corporations. I attended the University of Maryland while serving our country. I feel that working with the community in a civic capacity by serving on boards, or just helping people, has given me a better understanding on how to serve Ahtna shareholders and the company. I am passionate about the land and community and have served on several boards including Crime Stoppers, Fairbanks Native Association, World Eskimo Indian Olympics, North West Indian Head Start, FNSB School District Alaska Native Education and the Fairbanks Volunteers in Policing.

Marilyn Eskilida Joe, Land Administrative Assistant
I am an Ahtna shareholder from Chitina, Alaska and the Ditsiiltsiine-Eagle Clan. My parents are the late Maggie (Billum) and Joe Eskilida, both from Chitina. I was born with a speech defect called “Tongue-Tied. When I accepted Jesus Christ, I prayed, “If there is a God that hears me, please help me” and my life changed. My brother Albert taught me to speak and I taught myself to read and write. I enrolled at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and graduated with a secretarial certification. I had to set aside all the fun activities and focus extra hard on my studies. After UAF graduation, I went to the Anchorage Job Service and was immediately hired as a seasonal Secretary/Travel Agent; then BIA Computer Operator; Secretary/ Bookkeeper; Ahtna Weigh Station person and now Ahtna Land Administrative Assistant. Working in Anchorage was not easy – I didn’t have a car so I had to walk from 3rd Avenue to the 16th Avenue BIA Office every day; rain or shine!

I met my husband Wilbur Joe in 1962 and we have been married 47 years. When I look back I realize I met my two childhood goals, I’m a Secretary and also a Nurse for my husband. I give God all the credit for my achievements. Our young people need to set goals, realize God created us equal, we can do anything through Christ, be determined and “Just-Do-It.”