Coordinated planning needed to address major environmental and social challenges
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Increased coastal erosion, bigger and more destructive tundra fires and caribou starvation are just a few of the impacts anticipated in a major new report on the Arctic.
The report, compiled by an interagency working group, calls for an integrated management strategy for the rapidly changing region, using a coordinated approach that uses the best available science to integrate cultural, environmental and economic factors in decision-making about development and conservation.
“This 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,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes.
Wide-ranging stakeholder input led to a series of recommendations, including centralizing environmental reviews, strenthening state and tribal partnerships, encouraging more stakeholder engagement, undertaking more organized and inclusive scenario planning, and coordinating and potentially consolidating environmental reviews that are now being prepared by multiple agencies.
The report does not recommend new regulations or represent new policy decisions, but it does call for a review of the activities of over 20 federal agencies involved in the U.S. Arctic by the end of 2013 with an eye toward increased coordination and the elimination of duplication of efforts.
The federal government has primary jurisdiction over nearly three quarters of the U.S. Arctic’s land mass. In addition, the federal government has a special relationship with Alaska natives, including Alaskan tribes and native corporations.
The report also includes the launch of a new government web site, the Arctic Science Portal, by the Arctic Research Commission, which is chaired by former Alaskan Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer. This web portal will provide decision makers and other interested parties with easier access to scientific information about the Arctic. It includes information on topics such as sea ice, fisheries, oil spill research and many others. It can be accessed at http://www.arctic.gov/portal/.
“This report to the President emphasizes the importance of using a science-driven, stakeholder-informed framework—one that takes into account the needs of functioning ecosystems—for making good decisions in the Arctic,” said John P. Holdren, president Obama’s science and technology advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, speaking on behalf of the National Ocean Council, which contributed to the report’s creation.
“We are pleased to launch the Arctic Science Portal to help make science more accessible to decision makers and the general public,” said Fran Ulmer, Chair of Arctic Research Commission. “The report released today is extraordinarily important. It emphasizes the key role that science must play in making good decisions in the Arctic, and seeks to build on—and expand the successes achieved by the Interagency Working Group in coordinating across federal agencies, with all key stakeholders, and with the science community.”
A copy of the report is available here.