In July 2010, President Obama announced his commitment to implementing a new National Ocean Policy that indentifies the Arctic region as a priority area to address our stewardship responsibilities. Conditions in the Arctic are being impacted in the face of environmental and climate-induced changes. Now more than ever, we need to work across government and alongside communities to identify the critical actions we must undertake to address the environmental stewardship needs in the region.
I had the great opportunity to participate in a webinar last week to discuss the National Ocean Policy and what it means for the Arctic region. Almost 300 listeners joined the discussion on the Obama Administration’s work underway to implement the National Ocean Policy, including initial thoughts of the interagency team that is now preparing a strategic action plan (SAP) to address changing conditions in the Arctic.
The Arctic was specifically called out as a priority area for implementation of the policy because of the rapid changes that are occurring and the importance of the ocean environment to the local residents. Access to the Arctic is increasing due to a reduction in sea ice and technological advances, while the demand for resources and the impacts of tourism are increasing.
Dr. Cheryl Rosa of the US Arctic Research Commission and I also answered important questions from those participating in the webinar. We had a lot of great questions including whether the action plan would address subsistence concerns, sea-ice forecasting, port development in the Arctic, oil spills, and toxics and pollution. All of these issues are under consideration by the interagency team.
This webinar was one of many opportunities for the public to get involved and engaged in the implementation of our Nation’s first comprehensive National Ocean Policy. We will be sharing our initial outline for the SAP in early June and will look forward to more conversations about the important actions that must be taken to address environmental stewardship in our water regions across the Nation. It was rewarding to have this type of dialogue, and especially to hear from those who live in the Arctic.
The presentation and podcast from the webinar are now available on the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks website, which hosted this event.
Mary Boatman is a Policy Analyst at the Office of Science and Technology Policy