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Judy Bittner
Judy Bittner

Judy Bittner was interviewed on November 2, 2021 by Karen Brewster in a conference room at the Office of History and Archeology, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, in the Robert B. Atwood Building in downtown Anchorage, Alaska. In this interview, Judy talks about the history of designation of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, the Advisory Council for the Iditarod National Historic Trail that was formed to oversee implementation of a comprehensive management plan for the trail, and the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance, which is the current non-profit trail advocacy and education organization. She discusses collaborating with the Bureau of Land Management who is the designated trail administer, resolving land ownership, conveyance, state selection, and right of way easement issues along the trail, coordinating with local groups on trail stewardship, and the Council and Alliance’s education and outreach activities to encourage the public to support trail preservation and understand the trail’s important history, such as publications and the Alliance’s teacher training program (Iditarod Trail to Every Classroom - iTREC). She also mentions the administrative and financial workings of the Alliance as non-profit, and trail projects that they have undertaken, including construction of shelter cabins and nomination of historic structures along the route to the National Register of Historic Places.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2021-04-02

Project: Iditarod National Historic Trail
Date of Interview: Nov 2, 2021
Narrator(s): Judith "Judy" Bittner
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Ruth Sensenig
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance
Alternate Transcripts
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Getting involved with the Iditarod National Historic Trail

Designation of the Iditarod National Historic Trail

Land status issues along the trail, including ownership, conveyances, rights of ways and easements, and trail management

Serving on the Iditarod National Historic Trail Advisory Council

Activities of the Iditarod National Historic Trail Advisory Council, advising the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) who was the trail administrator, and working with BLM staff

Why the Iditarod Trail was designated a national historic trail

Comprehensive plan for the Iditarod National Historic Trail

Establishing partnerships with local communities and agencies to develop trail stewardship and maintenance

Establishment of the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance as a citizens advisory group

The Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance as a non-profit organization, its responsibilities, partnering with BLM, funding, having meetings

Decision to allow the Iron Dog Snowmachine Race to utilize the Iditarod Trail, and history of the trail as a transportation route

Motorized, non-motorized, and seasonal uses of the trail

Transition from the Iditarod National Historic Trail Advisory Council to the Iditarod National Historic Trail, Incorporated to the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance, relationship with BLM, and having meetings

Trail projects of the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance: advocacy, adjudicating easements, continuous route

Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance supporting construction of shelter cabins near McGrath and White Mountain, and dealing with right-of-ways

Funding of the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance and their projects

Education activities of the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance and the "Iditarod Trail To Every Classroom" (iTREC) program

Participation in historic trail national meetings and advocacy ("Hike the Hill"), and the importance of non-profit trail groups and agencies meeting together

Working with BLM, U.S. Forest Service, and the State of Alaska as partner agencies

Promoting trail stewardship and historic understanding of the trail, and working with communities on national register nominations for historic sites and interpretive signs

Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance's logo

Challenges and obstacles faced, and positive accomplishments

Effect of changes in state and federal government administrations

Future of the Iditarod National Historic Trail: environmental changes, trail maintenance, trail markers

Importance of representation on the board from residents along the trail

Developing statewide interest in stewardship and protection of the Iditarod National Historic Trail

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KAREN BREWSTER: Ok, this is Karen Brewster, and today is November 2, 2021. And I’m here in Anchorage with Judy Bittner for the Iditarod National Historic Trail Project Jukebox project. So thank you, Judy, for being able to be interviewed today and get me started with all the history.

JUDY BITTNER: This is Judy Bittner, and I am glad to be here.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. (under her breath) Turn this up a little bit. (normal volume) And so Judy, um, I know that you’re -- in your professional work, you’re the State Historic Preservation Officer here at the Department of History and Archeology for the state.

But what’s your role with the Iditarod Trail?

JUDY BITTNER: Yes, I’m with the Department of Natural Resources in the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation and the section chief of the Office of History and Archeology. And one of my responsibilities is the State Historic Preservation Officer for the State of Alaska.

I have worked with the Iditarod Trail, starting with my work at the State of Alaska as State Parks Director in 1982.

And at that time, um, the group that I was -- the trail had been fairly recently designated, and there was some cooperation between the State of Alaska and BLM in developing the plan, the comprehensive management plan.

And they -- the BLM person working on it, Terry O’Sullivan, had an office in the State Parks office.

KAREN BREWSTER: Even though he was with BLM? JUDY BITTNER: Even though he was with BLM. It was sort of a special project, and he had office space.

At the time, I -- it was all new to me, you know, when I did that. And I was State Parks Director at the very end of the Hammond administration, so it’s just for like eight months that I was -- and then there was a change of administration and a new parks director was appointed.

But I do remember overlapping with that, and they had just finished up the plan and submitted it, but he still had an office there and was still doing some work on the Iditarod Trail project, which was developing the plan and the resource inventory. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. Um.

JUDY BITTNER: And so, that’s my first time that I became aware of the Iditarod Trail as a designated National Historic Trail.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so, by that point, yes, it had already been designated? JUDY BITTNER: Yes.

So I came along the scene after designation, and as the um, agencies were working together on the comprehensive plan and implementing that plan. KAREN BREWSTER: And it was designated in 1978? Is that correct? JUDY BITTNER: That is correct. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: It was one of the first historic trails to be designated, because in 1978 the National Trail System Act was amended to include the category of historic -- national historic trails.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, because before that, it had just been recreational trails? JUDY BITTNER: Uh, scenic trails. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, scenic trails. JUDY BITTNER: Yes.

And there are recreation trails as well, and they are administratively designated. National scenic trails are congressionally designated. National historic trails are also congressionally designated.

And recreational trails go through a different process and are administratively designated. So like, the Secretary of Interior can designate recreational trails, and I think, like the Secretary of Agriculture can do it for with lands, as well.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. So what’s an example of a scenic trail that would have been -- ? JUDY BITTNER: Appalachian Trail. KAREN BREWSTER: That’s a scenic trail? That’s not a recreational trail? JUDY BITTNER: Well, people recreate on it, but it is congressionally designated. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: I think the Resurrection Trail. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: Um, from Hope to Cooper Landing. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: Is a recreation trail.

There are many, many recreation trails, and a lot of the trails, like on Forest Service land in the Chugach National Forest, uh, are recreation trails. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: Other than the Iditarod.

KAREN BREWSTER: And the Iditarod is the only historic trail in Alaska? JUDY BITTNER: It’s the only national historic trail in Alaska, yes.

There is currently a bill in Congress that would designate the Chilkoot Trail as a national historic trail.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I’m surprised that was not designated initially.

JUDY BITTNER: It was identified in the Gold Rush Trails of Alaska study that was authorized to take place in the 1968 National Trail System Act. They -- it authorized a Gold Rush -- Alaska Gold Rush Trail study.

It was identified, and in that, uh, study, they identified the Chilkoot Trail as an important historic trail, but the fact that it was in a national park, it was protected. And -- and in the recommendation, it said at that time, in the mid-'70’s that they didn’t think it needed the protection of a national historic trail designation.

KAREN BREWSTER: That makes sense. Whereas the Iditarod had no protection.

JUDY BITTNER: Right. And it crosses lots of different land ownership status.

KAREN BREWSTER: Which is surprising that they would have designated it as a historic trail given how complicated the land status is or was.

JUDY BITTNER: Well, at the -- at the time, it was probably less complicated than now. It was probably mostly BLM land. Uh, and a lot of federal land, and before a lot of the state land selections and the Native corporation selections.

And so, throughout the history of -- after the designation, there’s been many land conveyances, which is one of the issues of protection of the trail is designating easements when there is a conveyance by BLM to another party.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well yes, that is one of my questions, of -- if the trail was designated first, it was already there, somebody could still select that land after the fact? Like the state or a Native corporation?

JUDY BITTNER: Yes. It is -- it is just a corridor. It’s a route. The -- the -- my understanding of the national historic trails is a route is designated. And it -- It -- And it's a -- It's a route. It’s not -- it’s not adjudicated right-of-way or easement.

It is -- it designates the route of this historic trail, and then it is up to the land owners to actually, uh, secure a right-of-way or easement.

The designation of trail does not mean that there is an easement or protection of the route. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: There has to be an administrative action to add that layer of protection.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, ok. That’s interesting. I didn’t know that. You’d think a trail means it’s now managed and protected by some entity.

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. And Alaska has a lot of public lands, so we’re in a better position to protect, uh, like the Iditarod Trail. A place like the Overmountain Victory Trail, which is a Revolutionary War trail, had -- when it was designated -- it goes from Virginia into -- through North Carolina. I can’t remember where it ends up.

It had very little public land, and it was a route that was mostly through private lands. And they would have, once a year, get permission to -- through the private land owners, to have a reenactment of this march.

And one of the things that they have been doing over the years is trying to buy land or easements, to get a public easement. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: Through that trail.

So some historic trails have a real challenge of getting a trail that people can use.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, well, I would think as a private land owner, one might not be supportive of having a trail designated on your land or a route noted on a map across your land.

JUDY BITTNER: Right, and -- and uh, so you know, given those situations, there might be the historic route, but a public route might, um, then be developed.

A use route versus the historic route and using section lines and public rights-of-way to get through areas where, uh, there isn’t -- you can’t use that original historic route.

And so, often with the historic trails, you’re interpreting and letting folks know where the actual, real historic trail went and where today you can use a trail that goes near -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: Near the historic trail, but not necessarily on the tread.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Which is, the Chilkoot Trail. Part of the lower part of the Chilkoot is like that. They created a recreational trail that was a little easier to navigate than walking up the river. JUDY BITTNER: Yes, exactly. Yes, it's often underwater, as well.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, so, and they tell you that. This part is not the actual historic part.

JUDY BITTNER: Right. And -- and you get through in the Matsu Valley, and in the -- there were some subdivisions that were platted right on top of the historic trail. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: In the earlier days, and so, you have to do a workaround. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: Those areas.

And so it was really important at one point to, um -- and it was a goal for the non-profit organization to get easements and adjudicate the trail.

A lot of it’s on state land, and for five years there was an easement unit in Division of Lands, Mining, Land, and Water, and they adjudicated and marked, I think, over 1800 miles of trail.

And that was very important to protect it on the state land, because land status is very dynamic and very fluid. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

JUDY BITTNER: And you -- any trails, Iditarod or anything, you have to protect it long term and have it sustainable. You have to have an actual real easement. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: And go through the public process of identifying the actual route, the legal, adjudicated right of way. So you have to pick something. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And -- and although it’s -- the trail was a winter trail and it was a corridor, and the exact route might have varied depending on snow conditions and all, when you get it platted on a map, you have to decide where it’s going to go.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And then, what’s the width of that corridor? JUDY BITTNER: The management plan, um, and other laws kind of dictate the width of the corridor. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: If it goes across a Native land selection or a Native allotment, it’s only 25 feet.

Um, other kinds of lands, it goes to 100 feet, and the desired across public lands is 1000 feet. You know, so state and federal lands, the plan recommends 1000 feet. So it goes from 25 feet to 1000 feet.

And the state, when it was adjudicating, it did not like having 1000 foot coming up to a piece of land with a 25 foot, so they would reduce what was on the state land to have it -- have it more in line with the adjacent land.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. JUDY BITTNER: Uh.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, we kinda got off. JUDY BITTNER: Yes, we did. KAREN BREWSTER: No, no, it's o -- It’s all useful information.

But so, after 1982, after you ended your term as state parks director, then how did you get -- were you on the advisory council?

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, about that time, and I can’t remember exactly what year. It could be when I was state parks director, or it could be when I eventually became the chief of the Office of History and Archeology and State Historic Preservation Officer.

But I think by 1984, I was appointed the state’s representative on the Iditarod National Historic Trail Advisory Committee.

KAREN BREWSTER: Council, committee? JUDY BITTNER: Or Council. KAREN BREWSTER: Council. JUDY BITTNER: Council. I think it’s Council. Yeah.

And I was the state’s representative on that, and it was appointed by the Secretary of Interior, appointed the members of that advisory council.

And I was in the state seat. And there’s a -- on that there was a state seat, so I represented the state.

KAREN BREWSTER: And there were, um, other -- was there a federal representative and then the public seats, or -- ?

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, I remember, um, Fish & Wildlife Service had a seat and other agencies. I think one of the public members was Dan Seavey. Joe Redington was on there. I think Sharon Long was on that. Um, Leo Rasmussen.

KAREN BREWSTER: Was Nollner? No. I have a list of everybody who was on the original.

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, I was not on the original one, and there was an original group, and they were in -- they gave oversight to the development of the plan.

The plan had already been completed when I went on, so I was not part of the actual original group. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: That was on there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ray Collins from McGrath. Oh, Edgar Kalland, Kaltag. He died. He was -- he wouldn’t have been there anymore. He died in ’81.

So yeah, some of the original committee had, um -- Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, Department of Transportation.

Uh, Chip Dennerlein was the State of Alaska. JUDY BITTNER: He was the state parks director at the time. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok, I knew his name sounded familiar.

And then, Wilda Hudson, Municipality of Anchorage. Matsu Borough people. You know, then -- then public people from all over the state.

So yeah, it looks like there were federal and state and local representa -- and somebody from Nome, obviously. Yeah.

JUDY BITTNER: And I took -- I was the State Parks director after Chip Dennerlein, and then after me was Neil Johannsen. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: And so, I probably took Chip Dennerlein’s spot. KAREN BREWSTER: But -- but Neil didn’t serve? JUDY BITTNER: No, he was not on the committee.

KAREN BREWSTER: Because at that point, you were the SHPO? JUDY BITTNER: Right. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: Right.

KAREN BREWSTER: So you were still representing -- So what did that advisory council do in those -- ? Once you got on the committee?

JUDY BITTNER: Uh, they would advise the Bureau of Land Management on kind of management policies. And we would get -- also a lot of active land conveyances were going on at the time, and we talked, uh, quite a bit about, um, the trail and where it was being impacted by the land conveyances.

And -- and we would -- I just remember from those early meetings, I think her name was Sandy Dunn was head of the land conveyance in the Anchorage district of BLM, and would talk about which lands along the trail had been conveyed.

And -- and each year there were always a number of parcels that had been conveyed without reserving an Iditarod easement. So that became -- that was always a point of discussion and even resolutions were crafted by the -- by the council to BLM, you know, ur --

KAREN BREWSTER: Encouraging?

JUDY BITTNER: Encouraging, urging, uh, saying you must, you know, be vigilant in your land conveyances, in the directives to the -- to the staff to make sure that they reserved the easements, at least the 25 feet. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: Of that, and it got noted. So it still happens today.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So at that point in the mid-'80’s, did BLM have a staff person assigned specifically to be the Iditarod Trail, I don’t know, manager?

JUDY BITTNER: That’s called an administrator. Each -- each national trail, scenic or historic, has a federal agency that is the administrator of the trail or co-administrator. And they -- there is a trail administrator.

And Terry O’Sullivan was the first trail administrator, and he, I think, led the development of the plan. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

JUDY BITTNER: Dean Littlepage came after him. Mike Zeidlets after Dean Littlepage, and then Kevin Keeler after Dean Littlepage. And so there’ve been --

KAREN BREWSTER: And Kevin is currently still the administrator? JUDY BITTNER: Yes, he is the administrator. That’s his formal title. Is the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: -- administrator. So that’s his job, to be the staff liaison, staff point person. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: Within BLM. And BLM is the federal agency that is the administrator of the trail.

And each national historic scenic trail has a federal agency with that responsibility. Some of them have two, and they’re co-adminstrator. When they have that situation, there is a lead. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: But Alaska has -- and the Iditarod is the only trail in the nation that BLM is the trail administrator.

They are co-administrators with like, two or three others in the Lower 48, but in those situations, they’re not the lead.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. Um, and I know this was sort of before your involvement, but um, how was it -- why did the Iditarod trail get designated? Why was it determined that it should be designated a historic trail?

JUDY BITTNER: I think that was, um, the work of some grassroots efforts. And coming out of the Matsu and Dorothy Page and, um, Joe Redington.

And they were doing some long, long races. And Dan Seavey can fill you in on this one, because he knows that story well, but with the 1967 centennial celebration, there was in the Valley, a long race. KAREN BREWSTER: A long dog race?

JUDY BITTNER: A long dog race. And I’ve been told that that was sort of the precursor to, you know, the long dog race for the Iditarod.

And then, Joe Redington, Sr., was wanting to re-enact that, and he wanted to bring back dog sledding. And there’s just a whole story about Joe Redington. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: And his advocacy for the dog mushing and the kind of reenacting the gold rush days. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

JUDY BITTNER: And was a big push behind it. But it was that group in the Valley that really pushed it. And Dan Seavey got involved in that early on, as well. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: And they, you know, put on some races, and I think also the bicentennial committee, um, also had as a priority the designation of the Iditarod as a national historic trail when that seemed to be a possibility.

So I think between the race and the throwback to the Gold Rush era and celebrating that aspect of the trail.

And it was going through a lot of land that really hadn’t been developed. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: So it was pretty much open land. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: As well, in the mid-'70’s.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, well, considering that historic -- national historic trails were newly added to the act, the trail act, how did people up here even know that was an option?

JUDY BITTNER: Well, I think the, um -- and I just -- I don’t know specifically, you know, because I wasn’t there. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: Or wasn’t working with it.

But my understanding is that, with the 1968 act, Ernest Gruening was on the resources committee that was working on the 1968 resources act. I mean -- KAREN BREWSTER: Trail act?

JUDY BITTNER: National Trail System Act of 1968. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And it went through his resources committee.

And from my understanding from Steve Elkinton who did a lot of research on the national trail system, and Steve worked with the National Park Service in Washington, DC, as a trails staff.

He said that Gruening was an advocate of the Trail System Act, and that it was Gruening that put in the gold rush study in that original act.

Because there was language in there that there'll be a gold rush trail study in Alaska. And that he thought that Gruening was thinking the Chilkoot Trail -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: -- would probably be the Gold Rush -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- Trail. That would be the first, you know, historic trail.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that makes sense that Gruening would have been a big proponent of anything gold rush history. Definitely. Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: And so -- and so then there was an election, and Senator Gravel was elected.

And then it was Senator Gravel and Senator Stevens that were in place when the 1978 amendment was put in place that added historic trails as a designation.

And the Iditarod Trail, I think it was the Mormon Trail, and the Oregon Trail, were part of that first set that was designated. So in ’78 -- so it was the Iditarod Trail, not the Chilkoot Trail, that did it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: But, in the meantime, between ’68 and ’78 was the Iditarod race. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: Which was ’73. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And so there were several years of the Iditarod race. And so that became a phenomenon. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: And had its advocacy, and um, and it was needed. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: You know, for there to be, um, you know, that -- that designation of the race and that protection of that route, it would need a designation of a national historic trail.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. Well, that helps that -- helps me to then ask Dan Seavey and Pat Pourchot. JUDY BITTNER: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: Some of the details in that time period.

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, and Pat Pourchot, I think, was one of the primary staff to Senator Gravel that worked that.

And -- and from my understanding is that he worked with a lot of constituents. Flew the trail and met with folks along the -- in the communities along the trail. So there’s a lot, um -- KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: -- about the -- what was going on in Alaska.

That he was gathering information for the Senator and for what then led to the Iditarod Trail being designated.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that answers the question, that the role of the Senators and Congressmen is it had to get put in the act. And they’re the --

the 1978 amendments, they’re the ones who got that pushed through Congress? JUDY BITTNER: Right, and they were -- KAREN BREWSTER: It had to be officially in the act?

JUDY BITTNER: You have to be officially in the act. And first, they had to get the -- the fact that there would be historic trails. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And then, you know, which historic trails were going to be the first to be designated. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: And the Iditarod was there, along with the, I think, the Oregon Trail. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

And the Ice Age Trail, Wisconsin. Is that something? JUDY BITTNER: That’s a scenic trail. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, that’s a scenic trail, ok. So that was already there. Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. And I’m not sure when the Ice Age Trail got designated, but that’s a scenic trail. KAREN BREWSTER: No, I don’t know, either. Ok. I just know it was --

JUDY BITTNER: And the Appal -- you know, the very first ones was, I think, the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Trail. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: Uh, but those were scenic. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

Um so, more about what that early advisory council did. You had this comprehensive plan already done when you got onto the council?

JUDY BITTNER: The comprehensive plan had been -- had been completed and submitted to the Department of Interior. And it sat in the Department of Interior waiting for approval for many years. Like over four years.

KAREN BREWSTER: Because there was a 1981 version, and then a 1986 version, or something?

JUDY BITTNER: Right, and so it was probably those five -- It was probably five years. The original one had budget items in -- in the appendices.

I remember seeing the 1981, and it had budget recommendations. All of that, any -- any -- any hint of -- of money appropriation commitment was stripped out of the plan. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

JUDY BITTNER: And so the 1980 took 'til 1986 to strip out any obligation for financing or paying for any of the recommendations in the plan. And so, once they did that, then it was approved. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

JUDY BITTNER: And so, that’s why it got the 1986 date on it.

KAREN BREWSTER: I see. So do you know why that was stripped out? JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, nobody wants to obligate -- you know, be obligated for money, an appropriation.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right, on a federal level -- JUDY BITTNER: On a federal level.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that does lead to the question, is --

JUDY BITTNER: A plan is a guidance. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: And it has to last a long time.

And I think, um, that, you know, for just planning -- planners, they could say that maybe that didn’t belong in a plan that’s going to guide something for many years.

KAREN BREWSTER: So how, as a council, do you implement things in the plan if there’s no funding?

JUDY BITTNER: Well, the plan is based on partnership. And it is, uh, it’s all about -- it’s all about partnerships, and about all the different land owners, about the communities.

And it goes to each of the parties that have an interest in the Iditarod and in its use and its management and promotion to individually find a place in their budgets, uh, to support the trail.

Um, and about the -- when it was first put in place, one very beneficial thing that they did right away is get agreements with state agencies and also some agreements with municipalities to adopt the plan.

Uh, and that has been extremely important since then. You know, the state natural resources, fish and game, the railroad, um, there’s a -- it’s either -- I think it’s a memorandum of agreement or a memorandum of understanding that was signed, I think, in the '80’s, in the late '80’s, and is still in place.

And so, when the Department of Natural Resources does a land management plan, like in the Kenai, the Iditarod is -- is -- is addressed. And in that one, you know, it recommends a 1000-foot corridor.

Uh, and that is a very important part as that trail is threatened by the Grant Lake hydro project, which is sitting right on top of a segment of it.

And so, you know, development comes in. If it’s already in the plan, the land management plan, if you know, developments that come after that have to address their impact on what’s in the plan and so by having it in the plan and getting the state agencies to sign on and say, yes, we adopt this plan and we’ll use it and respect it, is very important.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that’s very helpful. Thank you, that helps a lot to understand what the purpose of a comprehensive plan is and why it’s there.

And, you know, I read through those, and think like, well it says all these things that were going to happen. Like, exhibits and educational stuff.

All this stuff that I don’t know if that’s happened, and how do you make those things happen if you don’t have any money. JUDY BITTNER: Right. KAREN BREWSTER: To do it.

JUDY BITTNER: And by getting these other agencies that have some responsibility and some program saying yes, we’ll adopt this, then we’ll consider those things when it falls within our jurisdiction and authorities.

And um, and it also gets down to the non-profit level and community level, saying that you have a role here, as well. And it recognized -- and it’s -- the whole thing is based on an Appalachian Trail model. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

JUDY BITTNER: The National Trail System Act is an Appalachian Trail model of partnerships in that the whole premise of it is partnerships and Appalachian Trailhead, you know, is based on partnerships at various levels, and that’s the concept here in the --

At the time, there was the Iditarod National -- the Iditarod Trailblazers, um, that -- and I think that was the group that was promoting the race, and so there you have mention in here of the Iditarod Trailblazers being a statewide organization, and they envisioned chapters in each of the communities.

So there is this umbrella nonprofit to draw Trailblazers with Trailblazer organizations in each of the communities.

KAREN BREWSTER: And there were -- there’s the Seward Trailblazers, Knik Trailblazers, and then Nome, the Kennel Club, sort of. JUDY BITTNER: Precedes it.

Yeah, the Nome Kennel Club has a very long history, and so, yeah, they were already -- there was already a group in place.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Yeah, I always -- I think of trailblazers that - by the name, that that group of people went out and, you know, broke the trail, groomed the trail, marked the trail for the race, for instance.

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, and for their use and training, and -- and -- and, you know, the dog mushers in that area. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: And they kind of take on, uh, the stewardship. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: It’s like a stewardship relationship, with the trail in their area. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: And so they’re -- I see them as stewards of it and promoting the trail and working with the land managers. Like the -- in Seward, Seward Trailblazers work with the Forest Service with the Chugach National Forest. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: A lot of the trail goes through there and through the Southern Trek, they call it. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: Of that, and then there -- it overlaps with some state lands and rights-of-way as well. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: But, in the Knik Trailblazers, there’s a -- works with the state and the municipality in -- in the different communities, trying to keep the trails open. And there’s an active dog mushing community up there. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, yeah. In Knik, I think there’s a lot of mushers that -- JUDY BITTNER: Yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: But, yeah, I always thought, well, they just went out and broke the trail for the Iditarod race. I never thought they were more -- sort of a stewardship group and advocacy.

JUDY BITTNER: Right, and they have their own activities and races and -- and -- and all -- and the race is one of the things they may help with. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: But, that’s -- KAREN BREWSTER: Interesting. JUDY BITTNER: That’s only two weeks of the year.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, but if -- Well, you gotta keep the trail going. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. And they ke -- They might be the ones that, today that the Iditarod Trail Committee taps into to assist, you know, where the trail goes through their area.

But the -- now, with the Seward Trailblazers and the Knik Trailblazers, they don’t necessarily overlap with the trail route. With the race route. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Right.

Well, that leads me to ask the question about stewardship and the public and how the advisory council and now the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance promotes that stewardship or gets the public to understand and want to protect this trail?

JUDY BITTNER: Um, the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance or non-profit was created in 1998, um, when the advisory council sunsetted.

So in the federal act, there is the advisory council, and they usually are authorized for ten years. The Iditarod one was authorized for 20, and so, it went from ’78 to ’98 in its 20 years. And so, the end of ’98, that advisory council was no longer authorized.

And in the act, in 7 -- 7H is the section. Section 7H is the section that deals with partnerships with national trails.

And in the act itself, it says the administrators and the trail administrators will actively work with partners. And non-profit organizations is one of it. It’s like state and local governments, non-profits. And so, with each National Historic and Scenic Trail has a 7H non-profit organization.

And when the advisory council sunsetted, BLM, as the administrator, saw that there needed to be a 7H non-profit organization associated with the Iditarod Trail. ’Cause the advisory council kind of played that role somewhat as the advocate, kind of the citizens’ advocate for it.

And they, at the very last meeting, uh, they had prepared some paperwork, and created the Iditarod National Historic Trail, Inc. Incorporated, was the -- is the actually the official name. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: It was incorporated at that time, and there were -- they got, you know, four of the members that were on the council to -- to be those, the incorporators.

KAREN BREWSTER: And who were those, do you remember? JUDY BITTNER: Irene Anderson, Leo Rasmussen, and I’d have to go back and look at the corporate papers to see who the others.

KAREN BREWSTER: Was Dan Seavey? JUDY BITTNER: I can’t remember if it was Dan Seavey or Greg Bill or --

KAREN BREWSTER: But they were people who were on the advisory council? JUDY BITTNER: Um-hm. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: Uh-huh.

And they -- because they -- yeah -- the BLM was saying, yeah, we really need -- you need an organization. Yeah, since the council was over.

And the BLM continued to, as the administrator, supporting -- supporting that, and so there wasn’t -- that was when that non-profit was -- KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: -- was created.

And the BLM needed a citizens’ forum group. It was, you know, it -- it -- it helped the -- the BLM be the administrator because the folks were from all across the -- from Nome to Seward -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: -- as well. Um, and it helped guide them. And helped them administer the comprehensive plan ’cause they were the connection to the communities and to the state and to the um, to organizations.

Because this is a partnership management model. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

Yeah, well, that’s helpful. I did wonder how the alliance grew out of the council. I knew the council sunsetted, but like -- yeah, whose idea was it to do something new? And it sounds like it came from BLM?

JUDY BITTNER: It came from BLM. They could see the -- you know, they -- working with the other national trails, as well. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: That this is -- this is the model. This is how you do it.

Um, and they provided some money with an assistance agreement to go along with it.

So the -- the non-profit could -- would have money to do projects with. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. So --

JUDY BITTNER: It took a -- and they, you know, and they continued to support meetings, you know, annual meeting and all, as the administrator working with its non-profits.

And they continued to work with the now the non-profit, as opposed to the advisory council.

Um, and it took -- it took a long time for those that had been on the advisory council to think of themselves as a non-profit. ’Cause it just -- it was kinda --

KAREN BREWSTER: How was it different?

JUDY BITTNER: Well, ’cause it was kinda seamless. ’Cause they were still working with the same people. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: At BLM. And advising and still had some staff support. And it took a long time to make that shift.

KAREN BREWSTER: But how is it -- how was it different, being a non-profit versus being the advisory council?

JUDY BITTNER: Well, it was an official part of the -- BLM’s responsibility, for one. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: You know, ’cause they were, you know, required to have this citizen group, um --

KAREN BREWSTER: So does that mean that now -- JUDY BITTNER: -- convene and advise them, and now it was just an advocacy non-profit group providing assistance to them.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that meant now the alliance member had to have, uh -- initiate their own meetings and their own -- JUDY BITTNER: Projects. KAREN BREWSTER: -- projects, and their own money? Or you said -- BLM helped with some money at the beginning?

JUDY BITTNER: Yes, they helped with some money. One of the -- the complications of that is that the -- that BLM’s at the -- the money could be used for projects. It could not be used for administrative or staff assistance. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: Um, by the non-profit. And so, all-volunteer non-profit group without staff has a hard time doing projects.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, the BLM trail administrator wasn’t your, quote, “staff”? JUDY BITTNER: Not at all. They are not -- they are not at all staff.

KAREN BREWSTER: But when you were the advisory council, were they your quote-unquote “staff”? JUDY BITTNER: Well, the -- the staff support -- Yeah, BLM provided staff support to the council. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: But that ended when it sunsetted.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. So yeah, I’m just trying to figure out how the BLM funding and support worked, council versus the alliance. And so --

JUDY BITTNER: And so, you know, the -- then -- ’cause the -- the council didn’t have its own money. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: You know, they were -- they were advisory. They were a citizens’ forum.

One example of that was when the -- when the Iron Dog first started, and the snowmachiners wanted to use the Iditarod Trail for their race. And they already had a dog race.

And so, the, um, so that was very controversial. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: At the time.

And who went first, and how do you, you know -- Was it possible? KAREN BREWSTER: And -- and were -- JUDY BITTNER: You know, was it --

KAREN BREWSTER: -- were motorized vehicles even allowed on a historic trail? JUDY BITTNER: Right.

And so, um, and at the -- there would be long stretches of time when the Iditarod Advisory Council did not meet.

And depending on who the district manager was, you know, it’d go long periods of time without meeting.

But once, you know, during that, um, controversy about having a snowmachine race, they saw the advantage of having a citizens’ forum and a citizens’ group to be part of that, and to listening to testimony on both sides, you know. The pro and con of having a -- a snowmachine race.

And so, they could see that it was -- it helped the BLM administer this by having a citizens’ forum, so they --

I remember at least one meeting where they had all of that, when they were making that decision, and then coordinating with the Iditarod Trail Committee, and the Iron Dog Committee, as to how to manage that, and how to manage the trail, and how to manage the, you know, breaking of the trail and timing and all of those things had to be -- had to be worked out.

And, you know, it turned out, yes, you know, they were permitted to. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: And could use it. It wasn’t just for the dog race. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And it’s -- but there was a lot of discussion getting up to that point.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so, the advisory council, though, didn’t decide the Iron Dog could or couldn’t happen. It’s BLM who decided whether that was an appropriate use?

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. Yeah. In the end, it’s the -- you know, they have to issue the permit.

But the council provided a forum of, you know, then the other citizens and representatives of, you know, cities and state and private citizens and communities all to express their opinion why they thought it should or shouldn’t happen.

And it’s hard when you just apply for a permit. It just goes to -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- somebody at their desk, and they administer, you know, deny or issue the permit.

And here you -- there is a dialog. And so, it provided the ability for a dialog for the citizens, then, to, you know, this council to -- advisory council, to advise the, um, the BLM to issue a permit, not, how to coordinate with the dog race.

Um, and also, they could just hear testimony. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: You know.

And the BLM folks were there, so it -- and I think just with a lot of issues, having a citizens’ forum and ability for people to come and express their opinion, uh, to an agency or city or government entity is important. Part of our democracy. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JUDY BITTNER: And that’s what this -- it played, and they could see -- ’cause it had been, I think, dormant for a while, hadn’t had a meeting for a while when this came up, and it -- it --

They convened some meetings, and people came, and so citizens could express their opinion, which then, I think, helped BLM make a decision.

KAREN BREWSTER: And did the advisory council make a recommendation to BLM, like a resolution or -- ? JUDY BITTNER: They must have. I just can’t remember. I’d have to go back. This is in the -- you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JUDY BITTNER: I’d have to go back and look at the minutes and see what they actually did.

KAREN BREWSTER: But it was still when it was the council? JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, it was still when it was the council, so there would be, you know, minutes and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: -- resolutions and stuff. And I -- I just remember it happening. I can’t remember --

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember the pros and cons of public opinion? JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, I think one, it was the, um --

I think some just were concerned about the race, the track itself was -- you know, wasn’t going to damage the -- the trail through the snow and ice that would make it difficult for the dogs to race.

And others that thought, well, they could break the trail. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: And it would improve it for the dogs.

So I think there were just some trail breaking issues and safety issues on the users and the different types of, um, machines and sleds and all that were using it.

And so, it -- it -- in the end, there needed to be close coordination and timing. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: Were part of it, as -- as well.

And I think it took a few years to kind of work all that out once they gave the permit. But, I think there was --

The fact that it was a gold rush trail and there was mining along the trail, um, you know, machinery and vehicles could be used on the trail. And there were ATVs and snowmachines already using the trail because it’s a transportation system between the villages. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: It’s an actual transportation system. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: And it is actively being used, um, both with ATVs and snowmachines. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: So having snowmachines on the trail was common already. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And that was, you know, ’cause it is a transportation route between villages. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: In that northern part.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, and I -- Yeah, I can see some people hear the word historic trail, and they think it has to be like it was in the gold rush when it was -- JUDY BITTNER: Non-mechanical.

KAREN BREWSTER: When it was non-motorized, and that that was the reason why it was designated was because of that history. And you have to keep it that way.

JUDY BITTNER: Right. And you want to have the experience along the trail that take you back. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: To those gold rush days, as well.

And it’s -- that’s an issue with what in some more current plans with the BLM is to, uh, motorize and non-motorize use of the historic Iditarod Trail in segments of the trail, um, in other parts and what time of year.

So it’s still, that’s still an issue.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I mean, historically, was the trail more a winter trail? I know it's different segments, there's probably different, but --

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, mostly a winter trail, and then in the summer, it goes to the rivers. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And you can’t really go over land in the northern part. In the southern part, in the Southern Trek, that got re-created later.

Although, you know, the route goes from Seward to Nome, there was some special earmarked trail moneys that went to the Forest Service after some advocacy on the non-profit side, to re-create the trail in the Chugach National Forest.

And so the National Forest got money. They didn’t ask for it. They were -- it was -- it was just allocated to them for this purpose, and that took several years. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: For them to do that,

And then it went through the environmental impact statements and all. And -- and -- and they did establish it and have established it, and now it’s a big part of the Chugach National Forest and the Southern Trek. But that is the result of advocacy.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. And I know I'll talk to Dan and Lee about that ’cause I’m sure they probably were involved with that, being in Seward.

JUDY BITTNER: Yes. And they had been working with -- before they got, you know, some money for -- for that, you know, they had been working -- the Seward Trailblazers, working with the Chugach National Forest to establish the trails and clear the trails.

And, you know, because they did have an active trail user group there in Seward. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well --

JUDY BITTNER: And so, that -- and then they had the means through the appropriation, through Congress, to actually implement a lot what they were advocating for.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and you mentioned, yeah, seasonal use and motorized, non-motorized. You know, in the '70’s, motorized was pretty much limited to snowmachines. JUDY BITTNER: Yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: And now, motorized can include off-road -- off-road vehicles, ATVs. JUDY BITTNER: E-bikes. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, e-bikes.

And so, which have different seasonal uses than a snowmachine.

JUDY BITTNER: Right, in -- in -- in the Chugach National Forest, it’s a section of the Iditarod Trail that’s year-round use because they’ve got, you know, trails, and people can go hiking, particularly in the Girdwood area -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- you can hike it.

And they’ve re-established the trails, and what the push now is is to get bridges to connect the segments, ’cause there are big gorges and waterways. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: And all.

And -- and so, they have, um, continued to develop trail segments.

And now to get a continuous trail from Seward to Nome, they need a lot of bridges. And just to get from Seward to Girdwood -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: -- to Anchorage, you need a lot of bridges there, but that’s -- it’s in the plan. They’ve got plans on the -- you know, shelf-ready.

You know, that if they get a little money, they can put in some more bridges. So each year, they’ve been able to make a lot of progress.

And then, Alaska long-trail concept is part of that. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Ok.

So you were on the council when it transitioned to the alliance? JUDY BITTNER: Yes, and at the time, the name was the Iditarod National Historic Trail, Incorporated. KAREN BREWSTER: Right, ok.

JUDY BITTNER: And at some point, 2010-ish, it was voted to have a doing business as Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance. Um, and it was, um --


JUDY BITTNER: Well, they -- it was the Iditarod National Historic Trail. It was being referred to as Inc., and that’s a big, you know, long title.

And -- and I think it was common among non-profits in the Lower 48 is to be an alliance, and it kinda spoke to the partnership, stewardship kind of organization, so I think it was thought that it was kind of more reflective of their role.


JUDY BITTNER: And so, that was, you know, and it was, um -- it was Jamie Schmidt with the Chugach National Forest who was a trail lead, and um, that worked very closely with the alliance and that -- that presented that idea.

And thought that it would be as a working title, um, better for the non-profit group as they, you know, work through with their -- with their programs.

And that was in developing relationships and partnerships.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and you said that there was a period where the council didn’t meet very often. JUDY BITTNER: Right. KAREN BREWSTER: Why was that?

JUDY BITTNER: It was just, I think, other duties as assigned to the district managers, and if there wasn’t a big issue, um, they just didn’t get to it.

And then there was a period of time where there were a number of vacancies, and the Secretary of Interior hadn’t appointed folks.

And BLM was just busy with other things, and so unless there was a big push to do so, it just kind of sat on the side, and they just didn’t get to it.

KAREN BREWSTER: And the advisory council members didn’t have an interest in pushing for, let’s do meetings, or we want to do a project or something?

JUDY BITTNER: Well, it was -- Yeah, they didn’t really have projects of their own. It was more a -- and a lot of it was land conveyances. Um, and there wasn’t, like, a controversy like the, you know, beginning of the Iron Dog. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: But, you know, we did -- You know, there were members that did ask BLM to, you know, when’s our next meeting? And there should be a next meeting. And it really was up to them to do it.

And they had to fly people. It was expensive. You know, they had to fly people in and put ’em up. And so it -- KAREN BREWSTER: And BLM paid for all of that? JUDY BITTNER: Um-hm. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, so it was a budget item, as well. So I mean, I don’t know why. It's just -- KAREN BREWSTER: You're speculating.

JUDY BITTNER: I’m speculating. Yeah. But those are all, you know, considerations. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: For that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And so, they had this comprehensive plan, but they had no pressures to start implementing it?

JUDY BITTNER: Right, and -- and I think also, the trail administrator was tasked with a lot of other jobs within -- within BLM and doing management plans and managing other kind of recreation areas.

And for a while, the Iditarod Trail was managed as just an ordinary trail. ’Cause there were, I think, BLM managed something like thirteen trails, and the Iditarod was just one of the thirteen, and there was nothing special about it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: Um, and um, that was, um --

KAREN BREWSTER: When did that change?

JUDY BITTNER: And that was after, you know, after it -- after the advisory council sunsetted. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: It -- it was kind of shifted to a, just a, just -- just another trail. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: You know, that there was nothing special about it.

KAREN BREWSTER: So when it sunsetted, it became a not-special trail? JUDY BITTNER: To some of the management, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: Of the -- of the -- that was --

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, they didn’t have the pressure of an advisory council? JUDY BITTNER: Right. And at that time, when the --

’cause I had been a member of the council, you know, the advisory council, and then it got incorporated, and I was not, um, a board member. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: Because I continued to work with the -- with them in my role as State Historic Preservation Officer. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: And so, I was still involved with them, but more as an advisory to the board.

So I stayed involved, but not necessarily as a board member. So I was off and on.

I may have been part of the original board, but then I was, you know, off the board but worked with them. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: I think that’s what -- I think I was part of the original board, went off the board so they could have other folks -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- on there, 'cause I was going to be working with them anyway.

And then, as we got to the, um, Centennial, the Iditarod -- the Centennial for the Iditarod, I went back on the board and have been on since then.

KAREN BREWSTER: When was the Centennial? JUDY BITTNER: It was like, 2008 to 2012. Or 2000 -- I think it was, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. So around 2008.

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, ’cause it was the Goodwins, um, blazing the trail. You know, the Alaska Road Commission was to find a route. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. JUDY BITTNER: Of the trail to the -- KAREN BREWSTER: So that’s the original date for the -- JUDY BITTNER: For the -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- historic trail? JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: And then we went to the 2012, which was the, um, when Alaska became a territory. It went from a district to a territory. The Organic Act. It was just a --

KAREN BREWSTER: For some reason, I have 1913 in my head for some date. I don’t know what. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, I’m sure there was lots of things, but that --

KAREN BREWSTER: Maybe that’s the gold rush. Maybe that was the Hope Gold Rush? I don’t know. JUDY BITTNER: I don’t know. But anyway, it’s a --

KAREN BREWSTER: So now that the -- with the alliance -- I'm just abbreviating it to the alliance. It’s easier to say. JUDY BITTNER: Yes. Yes, yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um, what kinds of things are they involved with? What are you doing? JUDY BITTNER: Um. KAREN BREWSTER: Or what have you done since 1998?

JUDY BITTNER: The -- there are three areas in which the alliance has found that their interest is in, or the kind of, the project areas. And they just called it the "Trail, Story, Stewardship."

And um -- and part of it is the trail itself, and advocating for the trail, and, you know, adjudicating easements on the trail, trying to get a continuous route from Seward to Nome, and working with the land managers to actually put platted maps. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: And have an actual, real right-of-way.

And that was, you know, a big thing.

And getting the Department of Natural Resources and kind of collecting, you know -- finding the money from different sources to DNR.

For five years, they had a dedicated Iditarod Easement Unit, and they did incredible amount of work and really protected a lot of trail on state lands.

And -- and also solved some routes and issues as they go through little communities and stuff. And so, that was -- that was a part of that.

And providing some moneys for some trail -- trail work, trail clearing, on the race route.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, there were also all those little side trails, kind of in the -- well, probably along the whole trail, but certainly out in the Iditarod Flat -- JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, it’s a -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- mining area, there’s a --

JUDY BITTNER: There’s a trail system. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. There’s a trail system.

KAREN BREWSTER: But somehow one main trail has sort of been identified through there?

JUDY BITTNER: Well, there’s the primary route, and then there’s the connecting routes. And so, there’s like 2400 miles of Iditarod Trail with the primary route and the connecting routes.

And the inventory in the -- in this -- KAREN BREWSTER: The comprehensive plan? JUDY BITTNER: -- comprehensive plan kind of makes a distinction between the primary route and the connecting routes -- KAREN BREWSTER: But so -- JUDY BITTNER: -- that are part of the trail.

And, you know, the non-profit is still all volunteer, no staff. And so, what they can take on is really through partners and being an advocate and assisting BLM on their own lands and what they’re doing.

And the Forest Service on theirs, as well. And having it accepted as something important. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: Within the -- within, um, within the agency.

And it was really the non-profit group and advocacy that got money to the Forest Service to actually re-create the trail on the -- in the Chugach National Forest. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

JUDY BITTNER: And now it’s a Southern Trek, and it’s a big part of their recreation. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: That is the result of a non-profit. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: In influencing what an agency does. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: And assisting them. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: In doing that. So that’s what I think one of the --

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that’s what I was wondering on the DNR adjudicating and getting state land, if that applies out in that trail system with all those side trails? Do they work on that, or they just were doing the primary trail?

JUDY BITTNER: No, I think it was where the, um -- ’cause they did 1800 miles of trail, and identifying where it was. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

JUDY BITTNER: And so, it was just wherever the official Iditarod Trail is, is part of the designation that they worked on. And some of it, particularly where it goes through state land, they could deal with that.

Um, working with shelter cabins. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: Is another big thing that they -- that the non-profit assisted with.

Um, they used -- they got a cabin kit, ’cause there was out of McGrath, they needed shelter cabins. There’s some big, big stretches out there without -- without shelter, you know. And it was the Carlson cabin.

And so they used some of the money they got from BLM to buy a cabin kit. And so, it went out to McGrath to be then put on the trail.

Well, until you knew where the trail was and it was adjudicated, the state couldn’t give you a permit to put up a cabin. And um, and so it showed the importance of having a trail on a map for the land managers to know where it is so they can permit something. KAREN BREWSTER: Huh.

JUDY BITTNER: And so that -- I think that cabin stayed all piled up with its logs for ten years. It took ten years. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

JUDY BITTNER: And when they first started that -- not realizing that, you know, there’s a trail there that goes through state lands, but it has to be official.

You know, that there’s certain official things that have to be in place before you can actually build something within its right-of-way 'cause you have to know where the right-of-way is.

Not just who uses it through there, but an actual -- KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: Actual, real trail, official. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and you know -- JUDY BITTNER: With the location, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: That’s the -- the -- the side effect of all this administrative stuff is, you know, back in the gold rush, old days, they just put up a cabin. It didn’t matter who owned the land.

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, it was all federal land. KAREN BREWSTER: Or who managed the land, it didn’t matter. JUDY BITTNER: It was all territorial, federal land. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: It didn’t matter. It was all one land owner. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, so.

JUDY BITTNER: You could just go out and build a cabin anywhere you wanted. And so, that was a -- a big push to get, you know, how do we get it adjudicated. Well, that costs a lot of money.

And so, um, it took a lot of years, with a lot of talk with DNR and others as to how do we get rights-of-way. And it was some complex gathering of money that had come to the state for trails and some, you know, to the Iditarod Trail Committee.

Um, but they weren’t able to, you know, execute on it, so we used -- that was a big part of the trail money that was kind of didn't really -- an earmark from Stevens, you know, when they had those days. That we were able to gather the money.

And Jim Palin was the president of the Iditarod non-profit, which was the Iditarod National Historic Trail, Inc. at the time, helped broker that.

And um, and got that in place with DNR, getting DNR to agree to accept it. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

JUDY BITTNER: It was Rick Thompson with the -- with the -- was the southcentral regional manager. And he was all for it, but he just had to, you know -- the state never had any extra money. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: Or anything.

And so, there was enough money that it went to the state that they had this special program. And they could see that there was a problem that needed to be solved, particularly through the Mat-Su Valley 'cause there was all sorts of subdivisions on top of it. I mean, it was getting more and more complicated as that area grew.

And so that was, I think, one of the biggest things that the non-profit did, and helped broker that and work with the different land owners, is to do that.

Something about the non-profit, it could cross agency lines. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: And state and federal lines, and community lines.

They can crosscut all these kind of jurisdictions where an agency sometimes, you know, has harder parameters as how to work. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: So that you just could -- to do that. So getting that easement thing was a huge, huge piece.

And so, with the Carlson cabin, um, that was one of the first things I did is like, where’s the trail through this area that goes near McGrath? And once they got a trail, were able to get a permit, and then the non-profit work with local communities.

And since it’s a non-profit, to get the local government to be the sponsor of this shelter cabin which their folks use.

KAREN BREWSTER: For maintenance and kind of stuff? JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, just to over -- we needed a sponsor, an oversight. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And so the City of McGrath stepped up and said, "Well, we’ll take it on as our, you know, McGrath Trailblazer group." Which is the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: Part of the city recreation group. And that they would put it under their municipal insurance. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, great.

JUDY BITTNER: And so, to this day, the City of McGrath is the -- kind of the sponsor of that Carlson cabin, and they have a group of volunteers that go out there.

But it was really under the statewide non-profit that got the cabin, worked with the state, worked with the local government, paid the state the $100 permit fee, and got the cabin up.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that’s a great example of something that the alliance has worked on, and kind of what your role is.

Um, and it did lead me to wonder about funding. We have the example of funding for that one. But, yeah, how does this trail alliance -- ?

JUDY BITTNER: It gets money each year from BLM. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, even as a nonprofit, it still does? JUDY BITTNER: Because it’s a 7H -- KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: Organization under the National Trail System Act. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: And so, the non-profits under the 7H National Trail System Act have a special relationship with the administrating federal agencies, and so we’re not treated just as any non-profit out there in the world. But it has a special legislatively designated or authorized relationship.

And that took a while for BLM. I mean, BLM recognized that when they set it up and even mentioned it, but in their administration and working with the non-profit, um, was much more narrowly defined than the Park Service or Forest Service in their relationships with their 7H non-profits for their national trails that they administer, both scenic and historic.

And it was because all the other -- you know, Park Service and Forest Service, provide money to their non-profits. Enough money so they can hire an executive director, plus do projects. BLM has never done that.

And um -- and when the -- when it was first created, the BLM said you cannot use any of the money for any administrative cost, whereas the Park Service and the Forest Service money that they gave to their non-profits and their trails, they could. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And um, one of the things that I did, um, was at one of the national meetings of the partnership of the national trail system. It was in Duluth, Minnesota, and I can’t quite remember the year. It was in the early 2000s.

I got -- At the meeting, I got the National Park Service head trails persons and the Forest Service head trail persons from the Washington offices, and the BLM head, you know, it was -- at the time, the national landscape conservation system folks, which the -- these things were being adminstered.

I got them all at the table, 'cause I'd been listening to these sessions, and I thought, well, why -- you know, BLM is not as open as these other agencies in their relationship and what can be done.

So I got -- there was the Park Service and the Forest Service and BLM at a table, and between sessions, and facilitated a conversation between them about the role of the federal agency as administrator in their relationship with the national -- their non-profit.

And it was -- what was allowed and what was not allowed under the act in that relationship.

And it was after that meeting that -- or at that meeting, that the BLM, 'cause we had some leadership folks there from Alaska, realize that they were restricting -- um, that their relationship with the non-profit was too restrictive. And that they were -- the non-profit could be -- could use the money administratively.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, so that changed after that? JUDY BITTNER: It changed after Duluth meeting. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: After that.

KAREN BREWSTER: But you still don’t have an executive director for the alliance?

JUDY BITTNER: We still -- But, yeah, you still have to have enough money, but we -- but we could use it, um, to pay for meetings.

We could -- you know, we can pay somebody to do -- you know, write our minutes for us.

You know, we could -- there were administrative things we could do, which, you know, we used it for -- for being able to hold --

you know, we hold meetings, which were collaborative partnership meetings, and so we could -- we could do that.

So we had the potential, but they never provided enough money to hire an executive director.

And usually new trails, and we’re not a new trail, but a lot of new trails come along, their agency will provide them enough money to get an executive director, get their organization built up. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And then they can more easily raise other money and do other things. We’ve never been able to -- we just haven’t crossed that line.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But so, the alliance, did you raise money for specific projects? I mean, you don’t have membership that people pay to become members? JUDY BITTNER: We do -- KAREN BREWSTER: You do? JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, we have a membership. We do have a membership.

We -- we’ve gotten some grants and had interns. And a lot of the work we do will assist a landowner in -- in creating something. When the -- and the, and um --

We help BLM build a number of shelter cabins when that ARRA funding, A-R-R-A, funding came along. They were kind of ready to go. You know, shelter cabins and the -- and the non-profit was able to buy the cabin kits out of Fairbanks and get them delivered to, I think it was Shageluk.

KAREN BREWSTER: What does A-R-R-A stand for? Do you know? American Resources Act or something like that? Recreation -- JUDY BITTNER: American Recreation -- I can’t remember. KAREN BREWSTER: Something. Ok. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, I can’t remember anymore.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and then some of your -- you’ve done publications. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, but that was a federal initiative. We were help -- Alaska was ready to go. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: We had projects.

And -- and then they used the non-profit to be able to do things sometimes you can’t in a non -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- in an agency with procurement things. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And so, often, what we'll do is partner -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- with an agency and be able to get something on the ground.

So we helped build, you know, helped -- we were partners in the building of the shelter cabins. So that’s all kind of trail stuff. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And then, um, and then on the stories side -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- is more the education. And then we had several books, um, "The Frozen Trail." We wanted a little booklet that we got Hannah Moderow to write about the history of the trail because, um, there was really no place to go to find a little concise thing about the historic trail. It’s all about dogs and mushing and racing and stuff like that. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

Most people in Alaska associate the Iditarod Trail with the Iditarod Sled Dog Race or the serum run. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. Right, exactly.

And so, you know, we wanted to -- and so, we sponsored that.

The Goodwins, um, got edited, his work, and he was the one that was blazing -- the colonel that blazed the trail. And so, we got -- that’s another little publication that we did.

Uh, during the Iditarod Centennial, we had a number of community signs, banners, all sorts of interpretive material that we produced all about the historic -- historic trail.

And then we started also on the education side, the "Iditarod Trail To Every Classroom", which is a place-based service-learning professional educator training about getting outside.

And uh, incorporating the outdoors in how you -- in your curriculum, and have a service learning component to it. And that’s -- we’re in our eleventh year now.

KAREN BREWSTER: And that’s the iTREC -- ? JUDY BITTNER: iTREC. Yes. Iditarod Trail in Every -- iTREC. And it’s partners with the BLM, Forest Service, the alliance, and right now, the um, with our webinar series, the Anchorage Parks Foundation, uh, is working with us.

And that has been very successful in reaching teachers from across the state, you know, focusing on that.

KAREN BREWSTER: So they don’t have -- they don’t have to actually be in a community along the trail? JUDY BITTNER: Well, now it’s webinar. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: So they don’t.

But we focused on a community along the trail or close to it because we could handle that. And it was a six-credit, three workshop, in-person training that we did for nine years, I guess. Um, and with a workshop in Anchorage, one in Seward, and one in Nome. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

JUDY BITTNER: And it was very comprehensive and they, you know, had to get six credits for it, so there was a lot -- a lot to it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: Uh, and the COVID, you know -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- kicked it out. But we are now doing a online -- we’ve adapted to an online, so we’ve kept it going. KAREN BREWSTER: Good.

JUDY BITTNER: Um, with a series of -- and now you can get one credit if you take 9 of the 15 classes. But, you know, it’s always been accredited. We’ve always worked with the university so teachers could get credit for it, and so we’re adapting to the COVID world, and going online with the same themes. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And so that’s part of our education, and the -- the Iditarod Trail and public lands and stewardship are part of that iTREC, although it goes way beyond it in terms of outdoors and education.

The Iditarod Trail is our, kind of, base, and we go from that. It’s an important part of that place-based service learning.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that was my question, was how does the Iditarod Trail fit in, like, to that? Why did you decide to start getting involved in that program?

JUDY BITTNER: We based it off of the Appalachian Trail, Trail to Every Classroom, and it -- there was another thing that we learned it at the national meetings.

And it was Jamie Schmidt and myself went to the Appalachian Trail. And with Rita Hennessey, who was the trail administrator at the time, I think, there, and -- and um, they had --

It was based on her master’s thesis that she set up this Trail to Every Classroom along the -- along the Appalachian Trail in different communities and working with school districts in different communities along the trail and getting teachers and kids outdoors on the trail and incorporating it into their curriculum and teaching.

It’s not a course. It’s not a curriculum. It’s just incorporating the outdoors in the concept of stewardship and public lands and protecting public lands.

And also, the service learning part of it is giving back to your community. Seeing a need and doing something about it. It incorporates all those things.

And so, they were very generous and gave us all their material, and we adapted it to Alaska. So we didn’t start from scratch. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: It wasn’t our idea. We adopted someone else’s program.

And um, it’s been -- and a partnership. So BLM and Forest Service have outdoor education, but this turned out to be much more effective way for them to reach a lot of teachers instead of just going into a classroom and saying -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- you know, Forest Service or Chugach Forest --

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, it’s a great idea, the place-based learning and -- JUDY BITTNER: Um-hm. KAREN BREWSTER: -- stewardship of some important place in your community, like the trail. I mean, it’s a perfect mix. JUDY BITTNER: Right.

KAREN BREWSTER: And do the school districts get involved? Or how do you get these teachers to participate? JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, you work with superintendents and principals and -- and, you know, it’s just trying to recruit and get your idea for your tiny little program. It’s always a bit of a struggle to do that.

We’ve had whole schools get involved, like the Girdwood School and then the Machetanz Elementary School in Mat-Su, the principal got on board, and all the teachers that came in took this training, and it became part of the school. Campbell Elementary, you know.

And -- and so, some of the principals really see the benefit of it and encourage their teachers to go. COVID has just thrown a wrench in everything. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: So what we all end up with, I don’t know, but it was going along just fine. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: But it was -- it was, um, one of our unique core programs of the alliance.

KAREN BREWSTER: Does it have its own director kind of thing, or somebody other than -- I mean -- JUDY BITTNER: Uh. KAREN BREWSTER: -- you as volunteer board members of the alliance aren’t out there running the iTREC program?

JUDY BITTNER: No. The Forest Service, Chugach Forest, has -- is the lead coordinator. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: And Annette Heckert is their education interp person. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: So she -- the Forest -- the Chugach Forest took it on as part of their just overall education outreach program as the coordinator.

And BLM and the Campbell Creek Science Center, educators there are primary partners. So it’s got BLM and the Forest Service, and the Iditarod anchors them both, and they both brought their educators together.

And so, and then the alliance is the non-profit that helps all of that and hires the facilitator who’s the experienced facilitator in this outdoor education realm. And she was part of the Appalachian Trail, facilitator, educator, core person.

And she does that, um, as a -- as a business here and around the world, actually. And so, she has been part of it, and so we hire her, and that’s our contribution to this partnership. So no one of us can do it alone, but together it happens.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, it sounds like a huge organizational, uh, effort. JUDY BITTNER: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: And even just getting it off the ground must have been -- JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- amazing.

JUDY BITTNER: It was amazing. It’s amazing that it ever happened. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: And it’s still going, I think.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, you had mentioned the national meetings, and I wanted to ask you a little bit about that. I know you said Leo Rasmussen went to almost all of them, but you obviously went to some, as well.

JUDY BITTNER: I did. I did go to some. And then the partnership and the national trail system, and Gary Werner was -- from the Ice Age Trail, was the executive director of that organization, and it was -- what was it doing? To get together to work with Congress and advocate for the national trails and have a collective voice.

And um -- and I remember going to some of the earlier meetings with -- just helping administer their, you know, the non-profits, their trails and working with the federal agencies. And it had an opportunity for the federal trail administrators to work with the non-profits, and, you know, on all the different issues.

And at one meeting there, they decided to have, you know, joint meetings, scenic and historic trails, and then have a -- in the off years have a scenic -- separate scenic trails meeting and a separate historic trails meeting. And then kind of going back and forth, but having --

And then once a year getting together and they call "Hike the Hill." KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: And going to Washington.

And at that one, the organization would set up meetings with leadership, with the Forest Service, the Park Service, the Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Congressional committees: Appropriations, Resources.

And so you had access to the decision-makers and the head recreation folks for the entire, you know, Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service, and you can talk your issues and management issues and coordination and partnerships.

And um, so it was extremely -- the national meetings were extremely important, um, for that reason.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. And "Hike the Hill" was a separate thing from the, you know, meetings? The -- JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, it was a meeting in and of itself for that partnership, which they partnered with the American Hiking Society.

And then other times of the years, just the partnership would have a trails meeting. There’s actually a webinar going on, a virtual meeting, this week.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, there you go. Yeah, I mean organizing something like "Hike the Hill" is a huge effort. So who would organize all that? JUDY BITTNER: The partner -- Gary. And uh, a person with the hiking -- American Hiking Society. Yeah, everything we do is shoestring. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JUDY BITTNER: And then, um, volunt -- the leadership council and the members of the non-profits that are on the board of the partnership. And people just do it as volunteers.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. Well, you had mentioned the importance of the national meeting where you brought the different administrators together and that changing how BLM allowed money to be used. Are there other things that Alaska members were able to accomplish at those national meetings?

JUDY BITTNER: Well, it was, you know, where we learned about iTREC, or the Iditarod, ideas of the -- of um, the education programs. Um, they have very practical things about working with volunteers, working with trail crews.

In Alaska, we haven’t done very much directly with trail work. Most of the organizations actually do a lot trail work and organize them. We just haven’t had the staff and the organization.

And in Alaska, we have the Alaska trails group headed right now by Steve Cleary, that we’ve encouraged, you know, them to take on that role.

Or we’ve worked with the Iditarod Trail Committee to actually do work on the ground with trails, so -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: We just haven’t had that ability to do so. And the Forest Service does -- has most of their own trail staff and crews.

But a lot of the meetings are geared toward more, you know, how to deal as a non-profit in communities and partnerships and get trail work done and, you know, saw policy. They do a lot on policy with the Forest Service and others, and -- and -- and getting to be able to work on federal lands with saws and mechanical things.

So a lot of it is working with regulations and policy and guidelines with federal agencies to allow the non-profits to do work on the trail on federal lands. And so, that’s a big part of what the -- what that organization does.

And so, you go share that and you bring it back to your own state, and then you apply what those issues are and then be able to work those issues.

KAREN BREWSTER: Are there ever any issues that you guys were dealing with here in Alaska that you could take to a national meeting, and you got help resolving?

JUDY BITTNER: Uh, I think the fact that the Alaska delegation has always been very important on both Appropriations and the Resources Committee, that we were, you know, helped in facilitate getting issues of national importance to committees and to the -- you know, through our delegation is often being able to just present ideas and positions that -- for their consideration. That has been something important.

And in our Iditarod Trail to Every -- you know, our iTREC has been unique in its approach and application. That’s what I can think of.

KAREN BREWSTER: I know there was something that Leo Rasmussen was involved with in one of the early meetings that he proposed. Something with how groups were organized or something, and now I can’t remember what it was. If it was how the money was -- I can’t remember. I’m sure it’s in my notes, but it’s not so important. Um.

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, ’cause he was involved in some of the historic versus the scenic trails stuff, as well.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And so, the council -- being a member of the council versus the alliance, and going to these national meetings, did it make a difference? Or you still went to national meetings, and they were still the same?

JUDY BITTNER: I think I went to a couple national meetings when I was on the council. I think that’s how I got to some of the early ones, was when that -- because it wasn’t just for the non-profits. Because it was the agencies. Yeah, that was so everybody could get together. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And it got the folks at the state level and at the national level, and they all kind of worked together and traded ideas of what to do and not to do and how to strengthen the partnerships.

Uh, and what was interfering with it, a lot of the, kind of the guidance on use of volunteers on federal land were issues and what work was allowed to take place on federal lands.

And also, trying to get rights-of-way protected in plans on federal lands and all. Those were all important things.

KAREN BREWSTER: I can imagine they would have a workshop on right-of-ways and adjudication. JUDY BITTNER: Yes, right-of-way, right. yep. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Because that’s --

JUDY BITTNER: Land and Water Conservation Fund monies and how it was used or spent to buy rights-of-way and parcels of land, um, that helped, you know, fill in the gaps.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. Um, so we’ve talked about all these different agency partners, BLM, Park Service, Forest Service, state parks. JUDY BITTNER: Fish & Wildlife Service. KAREN BREWSTER: Fish & Wildlife Service. Fish and Game.

Mostly it’s been BLM in terms of the administration. How has that partnership worked? Has it been successful? How is it different working with BLM versus the other ones? Besides we already talked about the money part, but --

JUDY BITTNER: Well, it’s their official job. I mean, you know, it is -- it is one of their official responsibilities.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yes, but as you said in the early days, they didn’t necessarily do it.

JUDY BITTNER: No. But, yeah, you had to get somebody interested, or the -- you know, they’d assign their trail administrator many other things. That’s still an issue, that they’re assigned to a lot of --

KAREN BREWSTER: I guess, how it’s very diff -- how it’s different working with the different agencies?

JUDY BITTNER: Um, well, it’s -- with BLM, it’s just a different relationship because they are -- it’s part of their job to be -- to oversee. And so, as trail administrator, they’re supposed to be working with all the other entities that have the trail going through it, as well. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm.

JUDY BITTNER: And so, that is -- you know, that’s part of their role. Whereas the working with the State of Alaska, they’re just really interested in what’s on their lands, not necessarily the trail as a whole.

And so, we just assist them in managing what is on their part of it because the state doesn’t manage the trail. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: You know, they don’t actively manage the Iditarod Trail.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. So if it goes over state land, the management of that trail segment is still BLM, even if it’s crossing state land?

JUDY BITTNER: No, the -- BLM doesn’t manage it, they just work with the manager of.

KAREN BREWSTER: So if it’s crossing state land, and the state doesn’t manage the trail, that section of trail has no management is what you’re saying?

JUDY BITTNER: It just has the general state management of it. And that’s why it was important for the trail advocates to get the state to, um, adjudicate and locate the trail on state lands.

And so, if there is -- so it can be considered. If there is another action, a mine that wants to go in there. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: A subdivision, you say, "Oh, wait a minute. There’s an easement right here. We have to work around that."

If you want to permit something, you know where it is, and so, they’ll manage the features on the state land, but there’s not -- not a recreation trail manager. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: Managing the trails and recreational trail.

I mean, there’s been talk about, you know, those things in the state.

So if you don’t have something official there, there’s, you know, they'll -- So when there’s an action on that parcel of land. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: You just see what’s there, what authorities and things like that.

And so, if there’s a real adjudicated trail, then they have to address that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, it sounds very complicated from a land management aspect. JUDY BITTNER: Yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: And, you know, sort of like a ghost trail. You know, it’s designated as a trail, but it’s not really on the ground, there. JUDY BITTNER: It’s a huge challenge.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you’ve stuck with it since 1984? ’82. JUDY BITTNER: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: Why? (laughter)

KAREN BREWSTER: Um, we also, on the alliance, we did trails, story, and stewardship. Did we cover -- JUDY BITTNER: Stewardship. KAREN BREWSTER: Everything you wanted?

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, and stewardship is just rolling into that working with communities, working with partners, that is, you know, the other piece of it.

And we often, you know, work through the communities-- you know, through the other programs, like the iTREC, you know, the educators in the schools and working with the communities like with the trail -- with the cabins and getting small communities to -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- to get a shelter cabin. And then that’s -- and then they’d be the stewards of that segment of the trail.

On a recent one, which is a little bit different, is that we worked with the White Mountain Native Corporation. They had a shelter cabin nearby that was being compromised from -- and deteriorated and glaciated, and,you know, it wasn’t -- it was in bad shape.

And it needed to be replaced. And it’s in very isolated -- and it’s a safety issue. And even, you know, each, you know, with the storms going through there. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: As bad a shape as it is, you know, it’d sometimes get full of people ’cause it was their shelter, and they had to survive the blizzard going through. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: Well, we worked with them and a new model, you might say, is that that needed to be replaced. So through one of our board members, worked with the corporation.

They decided, you know, that um they're going to place a shelter cabin on Native land, ’cause that was the location of that. And that they will build the cabin, and the alliance will provide all the materials and money to get the materials to the site.

And they will construct it themselves with their volunteer assistance on their land, and have it open as a public shelter cabin for any traveler on that segment of the trail. And so, it is both for safety, it’s working with a community, it’s brokering a deal that provides a stewardship opportunity for -- you know, it’s the corporation/local community. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: To step up.

And the non-profit was able to broker that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, yeah. I mean, stewardship would be the hardest thing on such a long -- JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- expansive trail and such a big state.

As I say, most people, they hear Iditarod Trail, and they think just the dog race. JUDY BITTNER: Right.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so, how you get people to care for this valuable part of our state?

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. And for them, it’s their -- it’s their roads, it’s their transportation system. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: They’re going in and out of Nome. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: That’s their travel route.

To them, it’s not just a race or recreation, it’s -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: That’s their transportation. That’s what they use.

KAREN BREWSTER: That seems a key stewardship thing is, this is your road. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. And we can assist you in making it safer.

And the safety cabins have always been part of the Iditarod, historically.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, they were roadhouses at some point. JUDY BITTNER: Right.

KAREN BREWSTER: Which brings me to the question about structures along the trail and National Register protection or anything. If there are any historic structures still left?

JUDY BITTNER: Uh, just a few. We just got Fritz’s cabin or Don’s cabin or one of the Alaska Road Commission cabins listed. Um, and that’s out of McGrath. It was in deteriorated condition.

And the -- the -- on that one’s on state land, and the state worked with Division of Lands, and the easement unit and they went out and restored it and -- in its use, and we also got it listed on the National Register.

KAREN BREWSTER: And who’s we? I mean, who does all -- the alliance doesn’t do all that work, do they? JUDY BITTNER: Well, they provided money, and they got the -- at the time when the easement unit, the easement unit folks went out there and did the work, and we, you know, often will provide money for the transportation and the materials, and then others will provide the workers.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, but to do all that research and documentation for a register nomination? JUDY BITTNER: That came out of the SHPO’s office.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. So one of your SHPO staff did all of that as a in-kind, sort of? JUDY BITTNER: Well, it’s one of our duties. Duties as to the National Register program. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: So the National Register program is one of the responsibilities of the SHPO office. KAREN BREWSTER: Even if it’s not on state land? JUDY BITTNER: Anybody. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: But that happened to be on state land. But no, we assist anybody with a National Register nomination.

KAREN BREWSTER: And have there been other ones on different sections of the trail? That’s the only one?

JUDY BITTNER: I think there’s some early -- from early on in Solomon. There are a few listed properties listed on the National Register. But there’s not much left.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, they have to have a structure, don’t they? You can’t just have a piece of ground nominated?

JUDY BITTNER: Well, you can do a historic trail segment, but we haven’t done that. We’ve just done the sites along the trail.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. And in terms of interpretation, there aren’t interpretive signs along the way, are there?

JUDY BITTNER: Uh, in the -- we did a community sign project, and so there are some community signs in communities along the trail.

And then, we’ve worked with Forest Service to get interpretation in the Chugach Forest. And so, there are some signs.

And then we had portable signs for pop-up events that we did some interpretive stuff. But, you know, there’s some interpretive community signs. KAREN BREWSTER: So like, at the -- JUDY BITTNER: McGrath.

KAREN BREWSTER: -- the edge of the community where you’d head out on the trail, there’s a sign or something like that? JUDY BITTNER: Ah, sometimes they’re within the -- in the community itself. At the visitor center. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, ok.

JUDY BITTNER: Um, I think at McGrath, it had it on the community building. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: So it varied. Takotna has it by the airport where the trail goes near there.

So it’s often at a place where people come. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: As opposed to the trail itself. Girdwood has signs, Iditarod signs.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right, and they’re interpretive signs related to that particular -- JUDY BITTNER: Section. KAREN BREWSTER: -- area's section? JUDY BITTNER: Um-hm. And the history. KAREN BREWSTER: History of that section.

Ok. I have a really piddly, silly question, but there’s a logo for your organization. Do you know how that got developed, who did that? JUDY BITTNER: Oh the little -- That was by committee.

KAREN BREWSTER: And I don’t know, that’s for the incorporated and the alliance, perhaps? I don’t know if that was from the original council. I don’t remember. JUDY BITTNER: Well, there’s the -- there's the -- what we -- KAREN BREWSTER: That one. JUDY BITTNER: This one. This is part of the trail system. This is part of the federal trail system.

KAREN BREWSTER: So it’s National His -- Iditarod National Historic Trail. With the dog and the -- JUDY BITTNER: This is federal. This is federal. KAREN BREWSTER: So that came -- JUDY BITTNER: With the federal designation.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. So we don’t know who made that or anything.

JUDY BITTNER: Well, I think the artwork, um, Bill Devine? This -- this -- this dog and sled looks very much like the, um, Iditarod Trail Committee’s. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, race. JUDY BITTNER: Because -- because it’s the same artist.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, ok. Yeah, it does look like the Iditarod Sled Dog Race logo.

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. It’s the same kind of -- same dog. Um, I think Bill Devine was working with that.

But each -- each national trail has a, um, a sign. We call it the pregnant triangle. In this way, with the logo-y thing in the middle.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: So that -- KAREN BREWSTER: And that’s -- you continue to use that because that’s from the -- JUDY BITTNER: That’s official. KAREN BREWSTER: -- original comp plan. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, that -- that -- that’s it. That’s the official logo. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: That’s the official federal logo. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that’s good to know. Thank you. JUDY BITTNER: Yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: So um, we’ve talked about all these great things your groups have done. What are some of the challenges or frustrations, things you wish could have happened that haven’t?

JUDY BITTNER: Um, having staff. Yeah. Until the non-profit can have staff and an office and do all that, um, it’s vulnerable. You know, that’s the huge -- that’s the big hurdle. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: Is having a revenue stream so they can have a staff person and an office.

KAREN BREWSTER: So along the way since 1982 and all these things you’ve been involved with, have there been particular obstacles that you can think of that -- ?

JUDY BITTNER: You know, the partnership has worked really very well, and we’ve got a really good group of folks that have come through the agencies. And um, that we’ve been very lucky with that.

KAREN BREWSTER: So even the agency staff have been supportive? JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And even the higher-ups? ’Cause I would think that could be a challenge. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. Yeah. And I think the Iditarod, the fact that it’s the race and it’s so well known, usually get supportive things.

And we took on, you know, a big project just within the state on the Turquoise burn area that just required cooperation from the governor’s office to commissioner’s office to everybody. That they just supported it, um, and made things go smoothly.

So the Iditarod itself brings a lot of support within the state. The fact that we’re working on the Iditarod -- KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: -- moves us down the road a lot.

Uh, and then, I think the reputation of the group and the non-profit group is very positive. We’ve done some very positive things on a shoestring, but have made a big difference.

We have shelter cabins we’ve built. We have a wonderful education system. We’ve provided money to the Iditarod Trail group to brush out trail to make it more safe when they’re, you know, it has been terrible conditions, and it’s really our money that have, you know, that we’ve given to another partner to do the work.

So our organization is not on the ground brushing the trail, but we’re making it happen. We’re not building the cabin, but we’re making it happen.

And so, the one -- people we have to work with know that. The general public doesn’t. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: So much. And so, there haven’t been --

I can’t think of any big obstacles in working with the partnership. It’s really mostly resources.

And the challenge of working in Alaska with remote communities when you can’t get there. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: ’Cause you have to develop part -- you have to develop relationships for things to happen. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And when you don’t -- can’t afford to travel there on a regular basis. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, and I was --

JUDY BITTNER: That is, I think, one of the obstacles, is developing relationship in remote communities to further your work because of the distances and expense.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. Yeah, and I was wondering if different state and federal administrations make a difference, in terms of, you know, who’s governor or who’s, you know, in charge of the Department of Interior or whatever? If those things trickle down and make a difference?

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. There’s been a turnover in the, um, that high level, but just the next level down. And it might play out now, you know, because there were a lot of people in place for a really long time that kept things moving along, and they’ve all changed.

So I don’t know what the future is going to hold because all those folks are new. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, and in -- JUDY BITTNER: In Forest Service and Park Service and BLM. You know, it’s all -- and then you put COVID on top of it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right, and I was thinking, especially if they’re the ones who are providing some of the money for things, and if state parks has some other priority, um, if it’s gonna affect your group’s ability to accomplish things, or you’re gonna be so focused on fundraising and advocacy you won’t be able to do something else? JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. I don’t know.

KAREN BREWSTER: You don’t know? You haven’t experienced it in the past, I guess. JUDY BITTNER: No. No, because the -- part of it’s ’cause it’s federal appropriations, and there is bipartisan support for the National Trail System. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: And the annual "Hike the Hill" meetings and the annual meetings to Washington cross all different, you know, changes of administration has been very steady and they produce a lot of information. There’s lots of volunteer hours, and leveraged money, and so it tells a very good story that has been very -- and they’ve been very receptive in Washington.

So there’s been a bipartisan support for the National Trail System. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: Since 1968.

And that seems to continue, so we seem to have a good, solid, bipartisan support. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. That helps. JUDY BITTNER: Yes, it does.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so now, what’s next? What do you see for the future with the trail? What are -- JUDY BITTNER: I think the trail itself is challenged right now, just even the -- the -- the -- the race and the trail and um --

But the fact that it’s a transportation system and more than the race, that we -- we’ll just continue to try to keep that trail open, and, you know, on the ground, you know, making a viable trail.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what do you mean, it’s challenged by changing environmental conditions or changing, um, land ownership? JUDY BITTNER: Cultural. Cultural. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok.

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, issues with the -- with the challenges with the PETA group, you know, the dogs. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, the animal -- JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, the animal rights. KAREN BREWSTER: Animal rights.

JUDY BITTNER: It’s the animal rights. I think the -- I think the race itself has the challenges with the animal rights. KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. JUDY BITTNER: Groups.

And it’s really the -- you know, the race and all of that that keeps the trail open, you know, as a long trail. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And I think, um, you know, they’ve been able to manage that so far. So I think it’s import -- I think it's important for the race to continue, for the Iditarod to continue. Otherwise, it’ll just be, you know, pieces, segments of it, that are active inter-village transportation.

KAREN BREWSTER: So it would be back to pre-1968? JUDY BITTNER: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. Well, that’s -- yeah, are there environment -- changing environmental conditions that you have to deal with for the trail?

JUDY BITTNER: Well, I think just staying ahead of the brush and the growth of the, you know, alder and the willow and all of that. It just might need more maintenance more often.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. Now, are there signs marking the trail, the whole route? JUDY BITTNER: There are, you know, that’s part of what we do as well is marking the trail.

And we just have a project with Nome to remark the trail with -- with -- with -- KAREN BREWSTER: Tripods? JUDY BITTNER: Tripods and way signs and reflectors. And so that’s another thing where the -- and that’s part of the trail thing is marking the signs.

And that’s when you have to work with a local group to try to get them to take it on. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And Nome Kennel Club has a project right now is to remark from Nome to Topkok Cabin.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, and they obviously during the race, it’s marked. But I didn’t know if there were official, you know, Iditarod Historic Trail marker signs along the way, the whole route. JUDY BITTNER: Well, we provide signs. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JUDY BITTNER: And some of it is mileage signs. You don’t want the logo signs because they’ll get stolen. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, really? JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. So you have to get a sign. There are some. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: But you have to sign it in such a way, you know, with reflectors.

Some have the logo on it. Some just have, you know, ten miles to Topkok, or something like that or to Nome. And some are wayfinding. And, you know, Safety Cabin, ten miles this way.

So there are different kinds of signs. And what they also like are just the reflectors. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: And the tripods. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JUDY BITTNER: And there’s just a lot of discussion of whether to put the trail logo and where. In the remote areas, it’s ok, but in the more populated areas, they'd probably be taken as souvenirs.

KAREN BREWSTER: Huh. That’s interesting. Um, well, anything else that you’ve thought of that you had notes on, or something we haven’t talked about? Big issues in the history of the organization? Getting all of -- making all this happen?

JUDY BITTNER: Uh, I think one thing about the organization, it has representatives from along the trail. It’s both a challenge and a benefit to fill that, so I think it has been done.

It’s important part of it is having on the board folks that are from different parts of the state and represent the different points of view and issues along it.

But it’s a challenge, being a board that is spread out over the state. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: Even just managing that or just getting work done.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And you're -- currently, you’re president? JUDY BITTNER: I am currently president. KAREN BREWSTER: And how long have you been the president? JUDY BITTNER: A long time. A long time, just ’cause I can keep it going. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And trying to find, um, someone to take it on has been a challenge. Not that I’ve wanted to be president all this time. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: That I just have kept it -- I’ve kept it going. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: Hoping to get to a point where they can hire somebody to do it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. And now, having these people from different segments along the trail on the board, do those board members bring local concerns or local projects to your board? JUDY BITTNER: Um-hm.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then you guys decide whether it’s something to work on?

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, I think with our Nome, we have a couple Nome folks that are very active in the Nome Kennel Club because for many years, Leo was the representative in Nome. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Leo Rasmussen, yeah.

JUDY BITTNER: And now, when he moved to Fairbanks, you know, we have two others. And we’ve been able to do a number of cabin projects.

We assisted the Nome Kennel Club in, um, the refurbishing of their shelter cabin, which is the one Topkok Cabin. And then the second Topkok cabin is the one that we’re working with the White Mountain Native Corporation.

And then, currently, we have a trail marking project with the Nome Kennel Club and re-marking with the trail of the tripods between Nome and the Topkok cabins, you know. And it’s dangerous -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- area to go through.

And so, with a board member being able to facilitate the connection between, you know, our board and the trail groups -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: -- to do projects and these stewardship things, it makes a big difference.

KAREN BREWSTER: And I can see, especially out there, with the weather conditions, that those -- you know, a tripod’s not going to last forever, and they have to put in new ones. JUDY BITTNER: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: Or there’s erosion, and it -- the trail disappears, or whatever.

JUDY BITTNER: And they fall over. In McGrath, our representative there, you know, is involved in the oversight of the -- of the Carlson cabin. KAREN BREWSTER: Um-hm. JUDY BITTNER: Uh, and its maintenance. And the relationship with the City of McGrath and being that steward.

So having -- and then in Seward, in the -- you know, with the members there. So if we have an active member, it makes a big difference in what we can do with that community because we have a point of contact.

KAREN BREWSTER: And do you have any thoughts to statewide interest in stewardship? You know, I mean, like, those in Fairbanks, the trail doesn’t go through our community. Why would it matter to us? So, do you try to get the larger public involved or educated?

JUDY BITTNER: Um, I think just providing information. Yeah, we did a video, as well. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And so, just providing information about the Iditarod and its history, because, you know, people around the state are interested in the Iditarod. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JUDY BITTNER: And so, providing the historic story is part of what we do with the broader public.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. ’Cause you’ve done a number of brochures, and, as you say, the video. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, and there’s a really good video on it -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JUDY BITTNER: -- as well.

And so, I think that is one way we engage the larger public is let them understand, or allow them to understand the history of the trail. Why is there an Iditarod? Why is it a historic trail? KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: It’s not because of the race. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JUDY BITTNER: It’s because it’s historic.

And so, then it kind of gets into Alaska history itself. So that is, I’d say, our connection.

KAREN BREWSTER: Ok. Well, are you glad you’ve been involved in this for so long?

JUDY BITTNER: Yeah, I -- Yes, I have 'cause it -- it -- I've met a lot of really good people. It engages me in the communities. I’ve got some really good partnerships with the agencies.

So I think the people that I work with have been a big part of why I’ve continued it, because I’ve really enjoyed the people that I have worked with from the national level to the state level to the communities and individuals. They’re just some really fine folks.

KAREN BREWSTER: All right, anything else? I’ve worn you out. JUDY BITTNER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Thanks.