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Lawmakers: US Needs Stronger Arctic Policy

Published On: Dec 24 2013 07:12:49 AM AKST   Updated On: Oct 14 2013 04:27:22 PM AKDT

(KTUU-TV, 10-13-13)


As much of the nation focuses its attention on the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis, both of Alaska's U.S. senators say the nation can secure its economic future by paying more attention to the Arctic.

"The reality is the United States federal government and Alaska's Arctic stakeholders need each other, in order for any Arctic policy to be successful," said Alaska's senior senator, Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Murkowski, along with Sen. Mark Begich, addressed the inaugural Arctic Circle Assembly via video this weekend. The forum, held in Reykjavik, Iceland, includes 900 representatives from 40 different countries, including both Arctic and non-Arctic nations.

Topics ranged from security, tourism, economic and research opportunities within the Arctic. Event organizers say the goal of the forum is to get all of the region's nations under one decision-making tent.

While scientists and pundits debate the cause of climate change, polar ice continues to melt at a rapid pace that means it may be possible one day for ships to navigate through the Arctic Ocean.

"What that means also is, as those ships move back and forth, there are huge opportunities for us to service them, supply them, be available for repair, search and rescue," Begich said. "All that means jobs, jobs, jobs."

But Murkowski adds the U.S. needs a clear Arctic policy in order to reap the economic benefits the region has to offer.

"I mentioned in my comments in the opening session, the idea of the Arctic as a zone of peace -- now, unfortunately, the peaceful portions of the world don't get the attention that they need and deserve," Murkowski said.

In 2015, the United States will assume the chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council, the inter-governmental body that addresses issues facing Arctic nations.