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Sal DeLeonardis Interview, Part 2

Sal DeLeonardis: The state was entitled to 90% of the revenue off the federal.

Doug Schoenberg: Mm-hmm.

Sal DeLeonardis: OK, and then the question began, if we hit another Swanson River, that 10% represents a hell of a lot of money. And while it's true that we inadvertently missed a basin or two were still going to get 90%, the 90% was considered at that time [INAUDIBLE] to keep it going. What changed?

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah, yeah, whereas if the land was in state patent and was involved--

Sal DeLeonardis: No question. We had it. We had 100% of it. And even if it wasn't [INAUDIBLE], all we needed was a major producing field, and 10% represents a lot more than that.

Doug Schoenberg: So that's why the decision was made to go ahead and do the entire entitlement.

Sal DeLeonardis: Well, I don't think that's really been settled until the last couple of years, if it's still settled.

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah, [INAUDIBLE] the entire selection was mandated.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah. I assume that that's what the state wants to do. But for a long time, they went along the selection program without really very clearly stating that by the end of the selection time but we were going to have our forward planning. That was never really decided.

Doug Schoenberg: The state mandated a selection as recently as, like, a month ago.

Sal DeLeonardis: Oh yeah, they've still got more to go.

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah. And I guess the B2 bill extended it to 1994 I presume.

DeLeonardis: Did it extend it enough?

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah.

Sal DeLeonardis: OK. Swanson River is on [INAUDIBLE].

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah, I'm sure. So I always, when I go through there now, you see the development in the inland, like, the inland [INAUDIBLE] shore. And did the states let those lands [INAUDIBLE]? They select the land after their things, after [? a strike ?] was--

Sal DeLeonardis: Oh, yeah, that strike was needed. In '57 or so.

Doug Schoenberg: And so I described it as made on federal mineral leases.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yes.

Doug Schoenberg: --woud have to be selected on mineral [INAUDIBLE]?

Sal DeLeonardis: No, it was not on the refuge.

Doug Schoenberg: Uh-huh.

Sal DeLeonardis: The federal lease was issued on the refuge so we [INAUDIBLE].

Doug Schoenberg: So national, Swanson River field--

Sal DeLeonardis: Is still federal.

Doug Schoenberg: It's still federal.


You've been working with Lands for the state for a long time now. And I have a sense of-- and I don't have specific training in land management, or in land planning. I'm, in fact, still working on my B.A. And do you think the attitude of the profession has changed much since when you started in the field? And has that had an impact on the field and really lasted?

Doug Schoenberg: What? Which--

Sal DeLeonardis: [INAUDIBLE] Which profession?

Doug Schoenberg: Oh, planning and land management attitudes.

Sal DeLeonardis: I'm not really sure I know how to answer that.

Doug Schoenberg: It's a pretty general question, I guess.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah.

Doug Schoenberg: I came across one reference to, I think, the land use planning commission.

Sal DeLeonardis: What was that?

Doug Schoenberg: How the land ethic in this country had changed so much since statehood days.

Sal DeLeonardis: Well, in statehood-- OK, OK. In statehood days, well, right around the time of statehood, Alaskans wanted to be in charge of their own destiny.

There was absolutely resentment against being controlled [INAUDIBLE]. They wanted to be in charge of it all. They didn't want oil to be [INAUDIBLE] in [INAUDIBLE], even in [INAUDIBLE]. And that was one of the major pushes. And I would say that primarily, people were looking at the government. Although, if we really analyze things closely, while development may have been facilitated by the state, very early in the game, there were a number of things that were done, that I think were pretty forward-looking.

Doug Schoenberg: Then would that bias be DNR and the Div. of Lands?

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah, right. Number one was, for example, the wars [INAUDIBLE]. OK? State strategy. Another one was looking at the duck flats of the Susitna River, identifying all of them for public recreation purposes. Now, that's where I'm saying that you can't have a [INAUDIBLE]. But identifying that, going into an agreement with the Forest Service in the Cordova area, it would protect both the fisheries and the ducks and geese in that area. Again, the problem of navigable-- what's navigable and what isn't. And rather than having two jurisdictions without the joint agreement with the Forest Service, so that whatever was done would be neutral on, regardless of whether it was navigable water or not. That was actually very affordable.

And if somebody new takes the time to look at some of the things that were done in the old days, even though the emphasis may have been on getting the land out of federal ownership, facilitating development, there were enough that were going on at the same time that emphasized the other side of the coin, you might say, being protective, a protective attitude.

Doug Schoenberg: Mm-huh.

Sal DeLeonardis: So I can't really say that there's really been a change in land ethic. There may have been a real change in land ethic as far as the general public is concerned. But I think, among the professionals, this was always there. Now, we may not have been able to exercise it as much as we would have liked to, because of the laws and the policies, and so on. But I think it's always been there.

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah.

Sal DeLeonardis: So direct response to your question, where you asked about the professionals, that they've been changed, actually, I would say, essentially not.

Doug Schoenberg: [INAUDIBLE] the situation has changed somewhat.

Sal DeLeonardis: Well, yeah.

Doug Schoenberg: Any more free reign.

Sal DeLeonardis: Politically and probably with the perceptions of the general public, yes, I think there has been quite a lot of change. I wonder whether I'm making myself clear.

Doug Schoenberg: Oh, yeah, yeah. I hear you.

Sal DeLeonardis: OK.

Doug Schoenberg: OK.

Sal DeLeonardis: Because early on, we were looking at things. For example, you could dredge out an old plan that we developed for the Mat-Su Valley. We called it a general land use plan. And it identified the duck flats in the Matanuska Valley, and also the duck flats here across the way, for public recreation purposes, because of the value for hunting purposes. We knew, for example, that some of that stuff down here would be suitable for private development [INAUDIBLE], and also looking at that as a potential recreation area.

Doug Schoenberg: Around the Kachemak area.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah. On the other side of Kachemak, we were certainly looking at it in Keystone and where the [? incubation. ?] We were certainly looking at that aspect over here with [INAUDIBLE].

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah.

Sal DeLeonardis: So I can't honestly say that there's been a change in attitude. There has been a change in the tools that we can use. [INAUDIBLE] And there certainly has been politcally a change in attitude, and certainly, with the general public. But among the professionals, no. I think the concern was always there. The tools weren't sometimes.

Doug Schoenberg: Do you know-- do you remember when that general landings plan was implemented?

Sal DeLeonardis: It must have been sometime in 1963. And as a matter of fact, we took it to the borough assembly and got it oked with them.

Sal DeLonardis: Now, what's happened to that [INAUDIBLE], I have no idea of how that [INAUDIBLE]

Doug Schoenberg: Two or three in the same areas. I know that [INAUDIBLE].

Sal DeLeonardis: It was a very general plan. It had about a five-page narrative with it and a map. And that was about it. But no, I don't think it was that bad either.

Doug Schoenberg: And it was overlooking kind of the same type of plan over all the area [INAUDIBLE].

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah.

Doug Schoenberg: Well, one of the areas that isn't contiguous to the Rail Belt that was chosen earlier was around Lake Minchumina?

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah.

Doug Schoenberg: OK.

Sal DeLeonardis: Again, an area, very popular, nice country, some timber potential.

Doug Schoenberg: When you say popular, you mean recreational?

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah.

Doug Schoenberg: Recreation.

Sal DeLeonardis: There are several lakes in that area, such as the largest and most famous Lake Minchumina. So that was one of the reasons [INAUDIBLE]. But it also had access through that area [INAUDIBLE].

Doug Schoenberg: There is an airfield at the lake.

Sal DeLeonardis: Oh, yes. There was, at that time, [INAUDIBLE].

Doug Schoenberg: Did you people do a lot of on-site inspection of plans before selections were made? And maybe that [INAUDIBLE] prior knowledge that was the same as before?

Sal DeLeonardis: Mostly prior knowledge. [INAUDIBLE] But I would say, at least during the time I was in mostly was prior knowledge.

A lot of the Southeast communities, which most of us working up here were not familiar with a lot of that. We did do a little bit out of [INAUDIBLE]

Doug Schoenberg: OK, in view of my overall scope of my project, is there anything you can think on we haven't hit on that I would want to know about, that you could remember at this point?

Sal DeLeonardis: Well, I don't know how you'd do it. And I don't even know if it would be appropriate. But I think, if you could do a little bit of research on the political plan, of the political plan, of all the things that might happen on a national scale, also maybe on a state scale or a state plan [INAUDIBLE] some of the things that might appear slightly irrational would probably become very apparent with--

Doug Schoenberg: See, I'm not sure. I'm not sure that this much emphasis in my supervisory role. When I asked this part, I didn't [INAUDIBLE]. But part of the reason I was hired for this project is that I'm a political science major, and had a lot of-- I've been very active in state politics since 1972.

Doug Schoenberg: OK. So and that's why I was trying to encourage you on the phone, when we were talking about the political environment, to say whatever you wanted to about that. And I'm hoping I can get more of that perspective that's happening with the Phil Holdsworth. And I am [INAUDIBLE] I'm hoping to do the other commissioners.

Sal DeLeonardis: [INAUDIBLE]

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah, I am interested in that. If you have anything else to say on it, please go right ahead.

Sal DeLeonardis: Well, no. I hope I've been frank in telling you these things about, because a lot of the emphasis that we put may not make much sense. We were politically oriented.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah.

Sal DeLeonardis: And there's nothing wrong with that at all. But on the face of it, what might appear to be sort of an irrational action, when it's put in a political context, becomes completely understandable.

Doug Schoenberg: Well, this has been a great interview today. I've got a hell of a lot of information. I really appreciate you giving all this time.

Sal DeLeonardis: And [INAUDIBLE] fun to reminisce about some of this stuff. [INAUDIBLE]

Doug Schoenberg: Has your-- did you need to change your perspective? I mean, obviously, you moved from the state to the federal government. But you're still working with similar issues when you moved over to the BLM. It's just been a different employer.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah, a different employer. And I didn't leave because I was mad at the Division or ready to go. But I had come to the point where I didn't see very much future in advancement [INAUDIBLE] with the [INAUDIBLE] division than I could at the BLM. And as things stand, I probably would have done just as well, maybe better, staying with the State.

Doug Schoenberg: It's real hard to see that kind of thing.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah. See, because at that time, we had all of the, we had the mineral program, we had the surveyors. The whole thing was all in the Div. of Lands, parks.

Everything was put into the Div. of Lands.

Doug Schoenberg: Now, I'm trying to remember if I've seen any organizational charts going back that far.


Was there any separate divisions? Or it was just--


Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah, there were separate divisions-- not divisions.


[INAUDIBLE] Yeah, listen, can I call you back in a little bit? I'm in the middle of an interview. Oh, are you at home? I shall call you shortly. OK. Bye.


No, they weren't separate divisions. They were separate branches. And it was-- whether it was a section of branches, I don't know.

Doug Schoenberg: Was the Department of Natural Resources still limited to the divison of lands?

Sal DeLeonardis: No. No, they had division of agriculture, too.

Doug Schoenberg: Speaking of which, I came across an early reference to somebody named-- I don't know if it's as far back as when you were with the department-- named Wally Snodgrass.

Sal DeLeonardis: Oh yeah, I think he was, at one time, he was head of the--

Doug Schoenberg: Head of the agriculture, that's correct. Do you know what happened to him? Is he still in the state or [INAUDIBLE]?

Sal DeLeonardis: I understand he's retired. And I think he lives up in Palmer.

Doug Schoenberg: OK, because he was on my list, but I didn't find his name and in the phone book or anything. Oh, that's right, the other thing I wanted to ask you about is-- I wanted to go over a few of the other names on my list and see if there's anybody who you think I've just missed that I'd probably want to speak with. Mary Chastain goes back to your days, you know her.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah, yep, he was [INAUDIBLE].

Doug Schoenberg: [INAUDIBLE] Marshall Lamar.

Sal DeLeonardis: Good.

Doug Schoenberg: Snodgrass. Peanut-- ? Peanut's name [INAUDIBLE]

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah.

Doug Schoenberg: And Bob Krauss. He may have started after that.

Sal DeLeonardis: No, yeah, he did. He did.

Doug Schoenberg: [INAUDIBLE] much later. Ken Holback goes back that far.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yes, Ken-- Ken came very shortly after I did.

As a matter of fact, [INAUDIBLE].

Doug Schoenberg: Uh-huh.

Doug Schoenberg: Do you know where he is now?

Sal DeLeonardis: He's in town.

Doug Schoenberg: He's retired now?

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah, he's in town.

Doug Schoenberg: I have a home phone number for him.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah.

Doug Schoenberg: Ted Smith, of course, is still around. I heard [INAUDIBLE].

Dal DeLeonardis: Joe Keenan

Doug Schoenberg: That's the next person on my list. I was checking the date to see if he was that far back. But he started probably at the same time you did.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah, just shortly after I--

Doug Schoenberg: Became director later.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah.

Doug Schoenberg: Chuck Herbert was commissioner later. I just recently came into some records to someone named Larry Dunn. [INAUDIBLE].

Sal DeLeonardis: Well, Larry worked in Southeast.

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah, I think he's still there.

Sal DeLeonardis: He's still with the Division of Land, I think, either that or the Division of Forestry.

Doug Schoenberg: I think he may be with the Anchorage district office.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah.

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah,

Sal DeLeonardis: I think he's running it, as a matter of fact.

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah, So Holdsworth, Tom Kelley, of course; John Freyberg

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah, OK, John's the guy that took over after Tom Marshall.

Doug Schoenberg: OK, yeah, I think he's down in California. Unfortunately, I don't know if I'll get a chance to talk with him. It's too bad. I think he would be a good person. I just spoke to John Salit earlier in the week.

Sal DeLeonardis: Oh yeah, I've worked with him.

Doug Schoenberg: Howard Gray.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah, He's [INAUDIBLE].

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah, yeah, [INAUDIBLE]. Joe [INAUDIBLE] Mike Leach-- he's down in Juneau now. I'll try to get down next week with him. Jim Williams.

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah, OK, Jim was head of the equivalent of Geological Survey.

Doug Schoenberg: When-- when you were with the department?

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah.

Doug Schoenberg: And I have some fish and game people.

Sal DeLeonardis: [INAUDIBLE]

Doug Schoenberg: Aha, yeah, what is-- he-- I guess he was a recent addition to my list.

Sal DeLeonardis: He was state board. He was first state board.

Doug Schoenberg: Do you know where he is now?

Sal DeLeonardis: Where he is located? No, I do not. Ted Smith might know.

Doug Schoenberg: Aha.

Sal DeLeonardis: Ted worked for the borough.

Doug Schoenberg: Then I'll, hopefully, speak with Ted on Monday. [INAUDIBLE] Does [INAUDIBLE]?

Sal DeLeonardis: Yes, yes.

Doug Schoenberg: Do you know where he is now?

Sal DeLeonardis: He may have recently-- I think he may be retired, in town, actually.

Doug Schoenberg: [INAUDIBLE]

Sal DeLeonardis: He may still be working, though.

Doug Schoenberg: Oh, yeah?

Sal DeLeonardis: [INAUDIBLE] Yeah, cadastral

Doug Schoenberg: For [INAUDIBLE]?

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah. You ought to talk to Ozzie Oswald.

Doug Schoenberg: I don't think I-- who's that?

Sal DeLeonardis: Or Maurice Oswald, who was the first-- well, second cadastral surveyor. You know, Roscoe Bell, I think, is still with them.

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah, he's down in Oregon. I don't think it's going to be possible for me to get down, unfortunately.

Sal DeLeonardis: Well, you should talk to him on the phone.

Doug Schoenberg: I may do that. I may do that after I've done some other interviews and see how things he may be able to clear up.

Sal DeLeonardis: Maurice Oswald-- he is partners with-- he's got an engineering outfit in town, Oswald and somebody.

Doug Schoenberg: So he was a surveyor [INAUDIBLE] going back almost to statehood.

Sal DeLeonardis: Oh yeah, yeah. Well, as a matter of fact, he was a surveyor. Came to work shortly after I did to work as a surveyor and then took over the top job after Neil Peterson, who was the one after [INAUDIBLE] in town.

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah, yeah, [INAUDIBLE]

Sal DeLeonardis: He is?

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah.

Sal DeLeonardis: Is that right?

Doug Schoenberg: Yeah.

Sal DeLeonardis: I don't think anybody knows what his real first name is.

Doug Schoenberg: Well, I came across the [INAUDIBLE] Now it's just initials LT. That's all I know how to find. Do you remember anybody outside of the Division of Lands, [INAUDIBLE] selections back in those day? I mean, like, anybody over in Fish & Game or?

Sal DeLeonardis: Yeah. I think you're going to-- and you'll get a good analysis of the political situation. Jim Brooks, who was former Commissioner of Fish and Game.

Doug Schoenberg: Well, was he commissioner back then, or was that later?

Sal DeLeonardis: No, no, that was later. But he was working for the Department. [INAUDIBLE] He's now with National Marine Fisheries Service.

Doug Schoenberg: Here in town?

Sal DeLeonardis: No, Juneau.

Page last updated 04/21/2020