Arctic Roundtable
PNWER delegation in Washington, D.C.
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The Arctic roundtable discussion was held in Washington, D.C. at the United States Capitol.

Last week, PNWER held an important roundtable with key Arctic stakeholders from the U.S. and Canada in Washington, D.C. at the United States Capitol. This was the Third Annual PNWER Arctic Caucus Washington, D.C. Forum. The Forum included the entire Alaska Congressional delegation, key representatives from the State of Alaska's Arctic Policy Commission, U.S. and Canadian Federal leadership and private sector stakeholders. Co-Chairs of the PNWER Arctic Caucus, Alaska Sen. Lesil McGuire and Rep. Bob Herron, kicked off the roundtable with insights on the importance of North American leadership in Arctic Policy and the critical role Alaska plays in the U.S. for the Arctic.


Roundtable participants heard from Hon. Denis Stevens, Deputy Head of Mission for the Embassy of Canada and former Consul General of Seattle. Denis gave great examples of the role the Arctic plays in Canadian culture, including how the Canadian Federal Government engaged northern people and integrated northern territories' priorities into the Canadian National Arctic Strategy. John Higginbotham, Carleton University and Senior Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), complemented Denis's remarks by highlighting the advancements of other Arctic Nations, specifically Russia, in Arctic Infrastructure development and regional partnerships and coordination with Scandinavian nations in the Barents Sea. He stressed that North America has done much to focus on the Arctic, but more can be done to meet the challenges of sustainable infrastructure development in the Arctic, given the huge changes taking place with shrinking sea ice. 


Rep. Bob Herron and Sen. Lesil McGuire opened the roundtable.

Participants also learned about the recommendations from the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission. Sen. McGuire and Rep. Herron, Co-chairs of the Commission, provided an overview of the Executive Summary. Stefanie Moreland from the Office of Alaska Governor Parnell and AAPC member gave remarks about importance of institutionalizing key communications between the Federal agencies and the State government and local communities, which she commented were not sufficient currently.   


From left: Hon. Denis Stevens, Ambassador David Balton, and Sen. Lesil McGuire.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski provided her views about the importance of Alaskan leadership in the Arctic Council, and her hopes that the priorities for U.S. leadership of the Arctic Council in 2015 reflect some of the priorities Canada has put forth during their leadership of the Council - especially about the importance of northern communities, and economic development for arctic people. Senator Murkowski also commended the concept developed by the PNWER Arctic Caucus of a US-Canada Beaufort  Regional Business Council. Senator Mark Begich gave his thoughts on the role of Alaska in U.S. Federal Government policy development. Senator Begich spoke to the need for more engagement between the federal agencies and the State of Alaska. Rep. Don Young spoke to Alaska's role in federal policy development and his support for an Alaskan to Chair the Arctic Council. He also discussed the importance of funding the U.S. Coast Guard so they can expand operations in the Arctic.

Alaska Rep. Don Young spoke at the roundtable.


Ambassador David Balton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. State Dept. provided an insightful response to everything that was highlighted during the roundtable. He also spoke of the impacts that the U.S. Presidential transition will have on the U.S. Arctic Council leadership. Closing out the formal session of the roundtable, Captain Jonathan Spaner highlighted the vision the U.S. Coast Guard has for operating in the Arctic, and shared that the recently released Coast Guard Arctic Strategy is the first such strategy released by the Coast Guard in its entire history. Capt. Spaner also spoke about the coordination that is undertaken between the Canadian Coast Guard and the U.S. and the importance of working together in the Arctic, and he was proud to announce the USGC Academy is offering a new course that will focus on the Arctic.

Sen. Mark Begich and Sen. Lisa Markowski.


As the roundtable came to a close, all participants had the opportunity to comment about the session and give some insights on their organizations' role in the Arctic and coordinating with Canada. Comments were raised about how the 'Arctic Special Representative' soon to be named by the State Department to the Arctic Council would be supported by the U.S. State Department. It was a great opportunity for all the participants to highlight the areas where the U.S. and Canada already have great coordination and to speak about how the Arctic is becoming an increasingly important region.  Senator Lesil McGuire thanked everyone for their participation and invited them for an informative Arctic discussion at the upcoming PNWER Annual Summit in Whistler, B.C. July 20 - 24.


More background on U.S. policy involving the Arctic Region:

Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for the Arctic Region

U.S. Department of Defense Arctic Strategy