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Raised in New Mexico, Esther came to Alaska in 1963 with two babies and her husband Bill Wunnicke, an engineer with USGS. She had a law degree from George Washington University, where she had been the first woman to serve on the Law Review. She devoted the next 30 years to leading organizations that actively managed the land and resources of Alaska and advocated on behalf of Native land rights. In 1982, Governor Sheffield appointed Esther the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, where she served as the “land lady” of Alaska’s 104 million acres of land.
After retiring from public employment, she initiated a citizen organization named “Alaska Common Ground,” whose purpose is to collect and disseminate information on Alaska public policy issues and to promote citizen understanding through forums and reports. Esther has mentored hundreds of women as they began their own careers in natural resource management in Alaska.