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Nome mayor appointed to AK Arctic Policy Commission

Heeding the recommendations of the Northern Waters Task Force, the Alaska State Legislature in its last session created an Alaska Arctic commission that is supposed to develop recommendations for an official Alaska Arctic policy. Last week Senate President Gary Stevens and House Speaker Mike Chenault announced their appointments to the 20-member commission and those include Nome Mayor Denise Michels. Michels secured the seat for a coastal community representative.
Michels said in an email exchange with The Nome Nugget that she is very honored to be appointed to the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission.
“As the Coastal Community representative on the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission, I will work with former Rep. Reggie Joule and Unalaska City Manager Chris Hladick and disseminate information through our membership with the Alaska Municipal League and through regional non-profits such as Kawerak so coastal communities are fully engaged in the public process,” Michels wrote. “I addressed the Kawerak and NSHC joint board meeting last week on the increase in Arctic shipping.”
During the joint boarding meeting, the two entities passed a joint resolution that urged Congress to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Michels said that subsistence and food security are very important for coastal communities that depend on marine mammals and the fisheries for commercial fishing.
Michels said that she heard concerns during the joint board meeting about the need to balance the health of the ecosystem with responsible resource development as marine mammals and fish in their seasonal migration pass through the Bering Strait. She also heard the desire to be at the table to voice concerns and to be part of the collaboration and consultation with the creation of a management regime of the Straits and monitoring - environmental and biological.
Other commissioners are Senator Bert Stedman of Sitka, Senator Lyman Hoffman of Bethel, Senator Cathy Giessel of Anchorage, House Representatives Alan Austerman of Kodiak, Bob Herron of Bethel and Beth Kerttula of Juneau. In addition the legislators, the House Joint Resolution that created the Arctic Policy commission specified that 14 seats are to represent a wide spectrum of interests. Pat Pourchon was appointed to fill the seat for federal government representative. Reggie Joule is to fill the seat for a tribal entity. Stephen Trimble is a mining representative, Lisa Pekich with ConocoPhilipps represents the oil and gas industry. Stephanie Madsen, executive director of the At-Sea Processors Association holds the seat for a fisheries representative. Unalaska City Manager Chris Hladick is the local government representative. Institute of the North managing director Nils Andreassen was appointed to the seat of an International Arctic organization. Layla Hughes is a conservation group representative, Steve Scalzo is the marine transportation and logistics representative, Elizabeth Moore with NANA is the ANCSA corporation representative and Peter Garay who was the American marine pilot on the Russian tanker Renda during her mid-winter journey to Nome last year, is the marine pilots representative. Alternates include Senator Donny Olson of Nome and Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham.
The United States does have an official written Arctic Policy, but the state that makes the US an arctic nation does not. Most of the other Arctic Nations and the Northwest Territories already have established Arctic policies. The reasoning behind the creation of the Arctic Policy commission was that Alaska needs to position itself as a leader regarding the nation’s Arctic policy and that Alaska cannot take that leadership role without understanding what its own priorities should be.
The other Arctic nations are anticipating the development of northern shipping routes, mineral extraction, oil and gas exploration, commercial fisheries and tourism to increase. Some of this change has already started to occur and this summer saw the first ever exploration for oil and gas in the Alaskan offshore waters by Shell.
The development of an Alaska Arctic Policy is deemed crucial because the United States will be chairing the Arctic Council from 2015-2017. The Arctic Policy Commission is supposed to be the tool for the Legislature to remain engaged in the ongoing Arctic dialogue and to help shape an Alaskan Arctic policy.
Meeting dates have not been set, but the commission is slated to meet in Arctic areas, Anchorage and Fairbanks over the next two years. The commission is to submit preliminary policy recommendations by January 30, 2014 and a final report by Jan. 30, 2015.

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