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Begich Calls White House National Strategy for Arctic a Good Start

Strategy recognizes enormous opportunities and challenges

Calling it a good start which now requires resources to implement, U.S. Senator Mark Begich welcomed today’s release of a National Strategy for the Arctic Region produced by the Obama administration.

“I’m pleased this administration responded to our request to recognize the enormous opportunities and challenges in a changing Arctic,” Begich said. “Until now, the U.S. was the only Arctic nation lacking a formal strategy and effort to coordinate federal agencies in their approach to the Arctic. Now the challenge will be committing to the icebreakers, Arctic ports and dedication to science which is vital to sustainable management of the Arctic.”

The Strategy released today lays out America’s Arctic priorities for the next 10 years, from economic opportunities and better scientific understanding to incorporating traditional knowledge from the Alaska Native peoples who live there.

Last July, Begich wrote to President Obama asking him to undertake such a strategy, noting that America is an Arctic nation only because of Alaska. The request was co-signed by US Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Based on an initial review of the Strategy, Begich commended it for the promise to work with Alaskans, including Alaska Natives, the State and private sector “to execute federal responsibilities in our Arctic waters, airspace and coastal regions.” He also praised its emphasis on passage of the Law of the Sea Treaty, which Begich has been pushing since he arrived in the Senate.

The senator noted that while the Strategy emphasizes more federal focus on the Arctic, resources to help manage it are being cut. For example, Begich called short-sighted the administration’s Coast Guard budget proposal which slashes 13 percent or nearly $1 billion overall, including cutting funding for icebreakers. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, Begich is working to keep responsible the budgets for those agencies which play such a key role in the Arctic.

Begich welcomed release of the Strategy as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Sweden next week to participate in a meeting of the Arctic Council. Begich was invited to travel with Kerry, but the press of Senate business in Washington prevents him from the trip.

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