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Annual DC Trip Yields Important Opportunities for Alaska

Representative Bob Herron, Representative Pete Higgins, Senator Lesil McGuire and Senator John Coghill Hand Deliver Izembek Letters to Secretary Salazar While in Washington, DC at the 2013 PNWER Arctic Caucus Roundtable

WASHINGTON D.C.-Alaska Legislators are in DC this week to attend various meetings, including the 2013 Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) Arctic Caucus Roundtable. Co-Chairs of the Arctic Caucus and of the recently formed Alaska Arctic Policy Commission, Representative Bob Herron (D-Bethel) and Senator Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage) gave opening remarks at the Roundtable where topics of discussion included:

  • Canada’s Insights on Sustainable Economic Development in the Arctic
          -Sheila Riordan, Minister for Political Affairs at the Canadian Embassy
  • Update on Arctic Council Sustainable Development Efforts
          - Evan Bloom, Director, Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, U.S. State Department
  • Scientific research in the Arctic
          - Dr. John Farrell, Executive Director, U.S. Arctic Research Commission

Additional members of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission participating were, Senator Cathy Giessel (R-Turnagain Arm/North Kenai);  Senator Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel) and Senator Donald Olson (D-Golovin). Other Alaskan Legislators participating were Senator Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage); Senator Fred Dyson (R-Eagle River); Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage); Representative Pete Higgins (R-Fairbanks); Representative Doug Isaacson (R-North Pole); and Representative Dan Saddler (R-Eagle River).

Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Mark Begich were also present to lend their voices to the Alaskan perspective on Arctic development and other issues.

During the roundtable, Representative Herron had an opportunity to point out to Director Bloom that, since it is Alaska that makes the United States an Arctic nation, an Alaskan should chair the Arctic Council when the United States assumes the Chairmanship in 2015.  “Alaskans want to be a full partner with the federal government on Arctic issues that directly affect Alaska,” Representative Herron noted.

Yet another opportunity arose later during a meeting with Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Representative Herron, Representative Pete Higgins, Senator McGuire and Senator John Coghill (R-Fairbanks/North Pole) were discussing federal overreach and the Department of the Interior’s role in Alaska with Senator Murkowski.  In particular, the legislators mentioned letters seriously questioning the Department’s recent “no action” decision on the Izembek land swap that they were hoping she could hand deliver to Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar on their behalf. Senator Murkowski suggested they deliver the letters themselves during her next meeting which happened to be with Salazar.

“Secretary Salazar finally met with King Cove residents on February 28 – today we had a good opportunity to reinforce their message by personally delivering these letters, that suggest a reconsideration would be prudent, to the Secretary,” Representative Herron noted.

King Cove residents have for years been consistently expressing their need for a road through the Izembek Refuge to nearby Cold Bay and its all-weather airport, necessary for airlifting those in need of emergency medical attention.

“Federal overreach was of course a topic of conversation at the Roundtable.  The Department of the Interior in particular is involved in so many decisions affecting Alaska, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and Outer Continental Shelf development just to name a few.  So it was apropos that we were able to meet with Secretary Salazar so soon after the Roundtable,” Senator McGuire remarked.

Senator Coghill added, “The federal government continues to make it difficult in accessing lands as promised at statehood and in later laws. We continue to be vocal when federal power is used to hinder Alaskans or violate our state and federal agreements.”

To view the letter from the Alaska House of Representatives to Secretary Salazar regarding Izembek click here.

To view the letter from Senator John Coghill to Secretary Salazar regarding Izembek click here.

For more information, please call Rob Earl, staff to Representative Bob Herron at (907) 465-4942 
or Senate Majority Deputy Press Secretary Graham Judson at (907) 465-2171.

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