By Margaret Bauman
A federal interagency working group led by the Interior Department says an integrated management strategy is called for in the rapidly changing Arctic.
The report released April 4 by Interior Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes highlights the need for a coordinated approach using best available science to integrate cultural, environmental and economic factors in decision-making about development and conservation.
The report came on the heels of a March 27 Senate Oceans subcommittee hearing held in Anchorage on Arctic marine activity chaired by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who said increasing traffic due to declining Arctic sea ice poses greater risks than oil and gas drilling.
“In a challenging arctic marine environment, where there are no harbors of refuge and few aids to navigation or search and rescue assets, mariners also have less accurate weather forecasts and charts where there are dozens of miles between accurate depth readings,” he said. “And unlike oil and gas interests, which have incentives to work closely with arctic communities, shipping interests are more transient and have fewer resources to mitigate risks and respond to problems,” Begich said.
Hayes said the interagency 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.
The report, “Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Arctic,” is based on input from a wide range of Alaska stakeholders. It recommends continuing high- level attention on the Arctic. While not recommending new regulations or represent new policy decisions, it does call for a review of activities of over 20 federal agencies involved in the U.S. Arctc by the end of 2013, with an eye toward increased coordination and elimination of duplication of efforts.
The report also launches a new government web site, the Arctic Science Portal, by the Arctic Research Commission, chaired by former Alaska Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer. It includes information on sea ice, fisheries, oil spill research and more. Access the web site at http://www.arctic.gov/portal/.