Friday, April 05, 2013

Managing For The Future In A Rapidly Changing Arctic

Apr 4: An interagency working group chaired by Department of Interior (DOI) Deputy Secretary David Hayes released a report that calls for an integrated management strategy for the rapidly changing Arctic. The report highlights the need for a coordinated approach that uses the best available science to integrate cultural, environmental and economic factors in decision-making about development and conservation.

    Hayes, Chair of the Alaska Interagency Working Group that commissioned the report said, "This report chronicles how Arctic residents are dealing with rapid, climate change-induced impacts on their resources and traditional ways of life at the same time that new economic activity and opportunities are emerging -- notably oil and gas, marine transportation, tourism and mining. It is imperative that we reduce redundancies and streamline federal efforts as we safely and responsibly explore and develop Alaska's vast resources while preserving the region's rich ecosystems that will sustain future generations."

    The report -- Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Arctic -- is based on input from a wide range of Alaska stakeholders. In addition to recommending integrated management, the report recommends continuing high-level attention on the Arctic, strengthening state and tribal partnerships, encouraging more stakeholder engagement, undertaking more organized and inclusive scenario planning, and coordinating and potentially consolidating environmental reviews that are now being prepared by multiple agencies.

    The report does not recommend new regulations or represent new policy decisions, but it does call for a review of the activities of over 20 Federal agencies involved in the U.S. Arctic by the end of 2013 with an eye toward increased coordination and the elimination of duplication of efforts. Congress has entrusted the Federal government with primary jurisdiction over nearly three quarters of the U.S. Arctic's land mass. In addition, the Federal government has a special relationship with Alaska natives, including Alaskan tribes and native corporations

    The report to the President was led by the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska, with active consultation and assistance from the National Ocean Council and the Arctic Research Commission. Established by Executive Order 13580, the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska includes 11 Federal departments, agencies and executive offices.

    The report also includes the launch of a new government website -- the Arctic Science Portal -- by the Arctic Research Commission, which is chaired by former Alaskan Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer. DOI said the web portal will provide decision makers and other interested parties with easier access to scientific information about the Arctic. It includes information on topics such as sea ice, fisheries, oil spill research and many others.

    John Holdren, President Obama's science and technology advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, speaking on behalf of the National Ocean Council, which contributed to the report's creation said, "This report to the President emphasizes the importance of using a science-driven, stakeholder-informed framework -- one that takes into account the needs of functioning ecosystems -- for making good decisions in the Arctic. We must redouble our efforts to move forward on this path."

    Fran Ulmer, Chair of Arctic Research Commission said, "We are pleased to launch the Arctic Science Portal to help make science more accessible to decision makers and the general public. The report released today is extraordinarily important. It emphasizes the key role that science must play in making good decisions in the Arctic, and seeks to build on -- and expand the successes achieved by the Interagency Working Group in coordinating across federal agencies, with all key stakeholders, and with the science community."

    U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ranking Member on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, commented on the report saying, "I commend the administration and the Department of Interior for recognizing the importance of the Arctic to our nation's national and economic security as well as the needs and perspectives of the residents of the far north. This report provides a good general summary of the challenges facing policymakers on Arctic issues, though none of the information in the report will come as a surprise to Alaskans or anyone else who closely follows Arctic issues.  

    "I agree that there needs to be greater coordination between the various federal agencies involved with Arctic policies, as well as a substantive role for the state of Alaska and local communities in determining those policies. It is also important that the White House provide real leadership to ensure that Arctic issues are a priority for the more than 20 federal agencies with responsibilities in the region. We cannot simply allow new layers of federal bureaucracy to be heaped upon the existing permitting regime. Economic development is vital in the region and it's entirely compatible with our other responsibilities there. As the report notes, 'stakeholders are not interested in additional layers of process; existing processes already tax the capacity of many stakeholders without necessarily leaving them feeling fully informed or involved regarding federal decisions.'"

    Access a release from DOI (click here). Access the complete 66-page report (click here). Access the new Arctic Science Portal (click here). Access a release from Sen. Murkowski (click here). [#All]

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