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Commission Names New Director, Drafts Guiding Principles in Unalaska

Two-day meeting emphasizes Aleutian Islands as Gateway to the Arctic

UNALASKA – Last month, the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission wrapped up a two-day meeting in Unalaska.  The meeting included presentations from several experts, state and local officials, tribal leaders, and other industry leaders.  State leaders including Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, Senators Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage) and Cathy Giessel (Anchorage Hillside/Turnagain Arm/N. Kenai), as well as Representatives Bob Herron (D-Bethel), Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham), Alan Austerman (R-Kodiak) and Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau) attended the meeting.   

“It was important for the Commission to visit the Aleutian Islands to see how the islands will play a key part as the Gateway to the Arctic,” said Commission Co-Chair Bob Herron, D-Bethel.   “I don’t think people realize how developed and forward thinking Unalaska is.  This city has the base resources to start getting ready for the onslaught of Arctic shipping as the sea ice melts and new oil and gas development opportunities emerge.  Adak is another place very capable of hosting this traffic as the Northern sea routes open up.”

The Commission, made up of 26 Commissioners, including 10 Legislators and 16 experts from throughout the state, is examining several areas to develop the state’s Arctic Policy including: governance, resource development, science and research, energy, planning and infrastructure, security, marine transportation, and fisheries.

Earlier this summer, the Co-Chairs of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission (AAPC), Senator Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and Representative Herron, D-Bethel, sent a letter to National Security Advisory Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry introducing the AAPC while sharing the Commission’s intent, assumptions, and scope of work.   During last month’s meeting, the Commission agreed to send another letter to encourage a response from the Federal Government.

“We can work together.  There are many creative minds already thinking about public-private partnerships, but we can’t have those conversations unless we are in the room with the Federal Government,” said Senator McGuire.  “Unalaska has almost zero unemployment and is ready to support even more substantial Arctic operations. 22 vessels have already been launched to support drilling of two exploration wells. Imagine the opportunity that will come with the next phase of development by other operations.  Alaskans have a bright future, and meetings like this one, are just one step on that journey.”

Speakers at the two-day commission included Unalaska Mayor Shirley Marquardt, Alaska Department of Conservation Commissioner Larry Hartig, U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Director at NOAA Zdenka Willis, Ounalashka Corporation CEO Richard Miller,  Denise Rankin of the Qawalangin Tribal Council of Unalaska, Director of Business & Resource Development at the Aleut Corporation Janet Reiser, Alaska Marine Pilot Captain Clayton Christy, Bering Seas Fisheries Specialist Frank Kelty, James Gamble from the Aleut International Association, Captain Barclay Lloyd from the Oil Spill Recovery Organization, Unalaska City Manager Chris Hladick, and Jaime Robinson on USCG Strategy.

The Commission is in the process of creating a detailed Alaska Arctic policy report that will further inform the public and policy-makers about the principles with which Alaskans will approach the promise of the Arctic, making “North to the Future” a lasting commitment to all Americans.  As part of last month’s meeting, members drafted guiding principles which include establishing Alaska’s Arctic vision while balancing economic needs and environmental stewardship among other things.  The final report is due to the Legislature in January 2015. A preliminary report is due in January, 2014.

During last month’s meeting, the Commission also named its new executive director, Dr. Nikoosh Carlo.

Dr. Carlo, who is Alaska Native, grew up in Interior Alaska.  She most recently offered consulting services related to supporting science-influenced policy in the Arctic including building collaborations, indigenous community partnerships, program coordination and management. She held an Expert Appointment at the National Science Foundation (NSF) where she helped lead the development of health and social science components of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee’s (IARPC) five-year research plan.   She was also an AAAS Science Policy Fellow in the Division of Polar Programs (OPP) at NSF. While at NSF, Dr. Carlo led efforts to develop polar applications of sustainability science emphasizing Arctic resident priorities and globally linked sustainability research.

Dr. Carlo previously worked with the State Department to link NSF/Polar Programs with Arctic Council activities and to advance interagency efforts to develop US Arctic research policy.  Dr. Carlo earned her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego in 2008. She had previously been a fellow at the Alaska State Legislature, National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, and Johns Hopkins University.

This meeting started establishing an important dialogue about what Alaska’s role will be in the International Arctic Community,” said Representative Herron.  “The hospitality was amazing and the amount of information we learned is something we can use for generations to come and as the Commission works on its findings and recommendations.”

The Commission’s next meeting will start in Fairbanks on October 22nd.  To read more about the AAPC and its mission, please click here.

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