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USDA Participates in a Tribal Collaboration Meeting in Rural Alaska

Recently, representatives of USDA Rural Development and other federal agencies held a collaboration meeting with the federally recognized tribes of the Ahtna Region, Alaska. The meeting was the fourth in a series of government-to-government Tribal Collaboration Meetings scheduled with tribes in Alaska. The venue for the meeting between federal officials and tribal leaders was in the beautiful remote Copper River valley at the Tazlina Community Hall. Tazlina is located seven miles south of Glennallen on Alaska’s Richardson Highway.

Tribal representatives and other partners from the region used the session in early August to discuss issues affecting their villages. Leaders from Rural Development, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Small Business Administration, Housing and Urban Development and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) were on hand to listen and participate in the dialogue.

Wilson Justin, administrator of the Cheesh-na Tribe in Chistochina, began the day-long session with an invocation.  A healthy discussion ensued, with local economic development one of the primary topics of conversation.

Wilson Justin (left) joins Barbara Blake from the Intertribal Agricultural Council (3rd from right) with a community member and Cheesh-na Tribe members Irene Johnson and Sandy Moore during a recent tribal consultation meeting in Interior Alaska

Wilson Justin (left) joins Barbara Blake from the Intertribal Agricultural Council (3rd from right) with a community member and Cheesh-na Tribe members Irene Johnson and Sandy Moore during a recent tribal consultation meeting in Interior Alaska

“The Copper River valley has an abundant supply of timber, much of it standing dead due to beetle infestation.  Harvesting this timber presents an economic opportunity and challenge for the region.  The Native village of Gulkana currently heats several community buildings with wood.  They hope open a wood pellet manufacturing operation in the future.  The Ahtna Native Corporation has located natural gas on their land which they hope to develop. The EDA, SBA and UDSA-Rural Development hope to provide financial assistance for economic development projects that create jobs and attract private investment in the Copper River valley,” said Shirley Kelly of EDA.

Among the other items of discussion were: adequate and affordable housing; food production and availability; natural resource management and the cost of energy.  Site control for housing and invasive species were two, attention-grabbing topics for people in the region.

More Tribal Collaboration Meetings will be scheduled throughout the year. On-going meeting information and schedules can be followed here.  Information about USDA’s support for the Tribes can be found here.

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