Arctic Update Header
May 29, 2012

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


federal register logoBig news... For the first time in years, and thanks to the efforts of many, a draft 5-year Arctic Research Program Plan has been developed by the Federal government's Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC). It's available for public comment. The public call for comments was announced in the Federal Register on 5/2. You can find the announcement here, now. The draft plan can be downloaded here. Please submit comments (thanks). This plan reflects the goals and objectives put forward in a report by the USARC.



The House and Senate are in recess this week.




Michael McFaul Assailed by Russia's Foreign Ministry. Russia's Foreign Ministry on Monday harshly criticized the U.S. ambassador for his remarks at a meeting with students, accusing him of breaking diplomatic etiquette and misrepresenting Moscow's foreign policy. The ministry targeted Michael McFaul for saying that Russia had offered money to the leader of Kyrgyzstan for removing a U.S. base from its soil, saying his description of this and other issues was "deliberately distorted." The ministry also accused McFaul of misrepresenting Russia's stance on issues such as the Iranian nuclear standoff and North Korea's nuclear program. "This isn't the first the time when statements and actions of Mr. McFaul are causing bewilderment," the ministry said. Politico 


BSEEBSEE Oversees Arctic Oil Spill Response Exercise. Officials from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) participated in an all-day table top exercise designed to simulate the response to a well blowout in the Chukchi Sea. The exercise, planned over the past several months, included representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the State of Alaska and the North Slope Borough, as well as officials from Shell. BSEE will conduct a series of planned and unannounced exercises and inspections throughout the year to test industry's ability to meet the conditions of their oil spill response plans and effectively respond to a potential spill in the Arctic, in the event that exploratory drilling activities are approved. The Bureau will also continue to participate in joint exercises, such as yesterday's event, to evaluate and improve communication and coordination among federal and state partners and the company. The Maritime Executive  


parnellFeds Aim to Bust 'Myths' Surrounding Endangered Species Act in Alaska. It's no secret that Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell is disenchanted with the Endangered Species Act, the federal law that protects struggling animal populations and their habitats. While Parnell criticizes the use of the courts by environmentalists to stymie development, he has had no qualms using the same tactic to try to dislodge perceived threats to development. His administration has been quick to litigate matters it perceives as problematic. In fact, he's sought a $1 million increase for state lawyers to wage more fights. And he's proud to be the guy leading the charge. "Yes, we have filed a lot of lawsuits. And I don't apologize for any of them," he once said during a luncheon hosted by the Resource Development Council in 2010. Alaska Dispatch


Bowhead Whale Hunting BarrowIn Northern Alaska, Spring Whaling Season Yield Estimated 990 Tons of Bowhead. With their five-year whaling quota up for renewal this summer, Alaska's bowhead subsistence hunters are wrapping up an abundant spring season for the big town of Barrow and a few other villages, thanks partly to smooth sea ice that made for relatively easy access to whaling grounds. For the first time in many years, Barrow -- perched on the high arctic coastline, the farthest-north community in America -- exhausted its entire year's whaling quota in the spring, landing 14 bowheads and losing eight, said Johnny Aiken, executive director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. That doesn't mean Barrow's 35 crews are out of luck come fall. At Barrow's request, other whaling communities will likely share their unused strikes with the city of 4,300 -- by far the largest community that depends on the black leviathan's rich blubber and meat. Alaska Dispatch 


Heavy Sea Ice Could Mean Slight Delay in Offshore Arctic Drilling. The heaviest polar ice in more than a decade is clinging to the northern coast of Alaska and could postpone the commencement of offshore oil drilling in the Arctic until the beginning of August - a delay of up to two weeks, Shell Alaska officials said Friday. Unveiling the newly refurbished ice-class drilling rig that is poised to commence plumbing two exploratory wells this summer in the Beaufort Sea, Shell executives  said the unusually robust sea ice would further narrow what already is a tight window for operations in a $4-billion program designed to measure the extent of what could be the United States' most important new inventory of oil and gas. Los Angeles Times 


blueberriesInvasive Plants May Threaten Alaska's Native Berries. Climate warming is allowing invasive plants to take hold in Alaska and possibly luring pollinators away from native berries, says University of Alaska Fairbanks ecologist Christa Mulder. Blueberries and cranberries are a major part of Alaskan's subsistence lifestyle, both directly, by providing berries for eating, and indirectly, by providing forage for animals that people eat. But Alaska's native berries share similar habitats and pollinators with invasive plants such as sweet clover. The Tundra Drums 



nuunavutNunavut to Negotiate Share of Royalties. Ottawa and Nunavut are opening talks on granting province-like powers to the eastern Arctic territory over its natural resources. "Our economic development and our self-reliance depend on reaching an agreement to transfer land management responsibilities to Nunavut," Premier Eva Aariak said Tuesday as she named Nunavut's chief negotiator for the talks. The territorial government currently doesn't collect any royalties from resources on its land. The money all flows to the federal government. Ottawa also has regulatory authority for the development of those lands. The Chronicle Herald 


Northern Alaska Lakes Getting Closer Look. Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but Alaska has more than that in the great expanse of flatlands north of the Brooks Range. These ubiquitous far-north bodies of water - most of them formed by the disappearance of ancient, buried ice that dimples the landscape as it thaws - make the maps of Alaska's coastal plain look like Swiss cheese. A large group of scientists are now taking a closer look at Alaska's "thermokarst" lakes, some of the fastest-changing landforms on the planet. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 


Is Alaska Prepared for Second Mining Boom? [Commentary] Recently, I had a chance to talk to John Shively, CEO of the Pebble Partnership, and one thing he said stood out to me in particular. The Pebble Prospect, he said, is a multi-billion-dollar asset, and it will almost certainly be developed one way or another at some time. It may or may not be the Pebble Partnership who does it, but history shows that as long as there is such a high demand for gold, copper and molybdenum, the chances are someone will figure out a way to get the minerals out of the earth to satisfy that demand. It's not really news. We know as a species we are particularly good at satisfying our needs. But as the EPA releases its watershed assessment for Bristol Bay, and the call to stop the Pebble Project reaches a deafening tone statewide, it seems that maybe people are missing the bigger picture. Alaska Dispatch  


Canadian Polar Commission to Open Office North of 60. The organization meant to be Ottawa's eyes and ears in the Arctic is getting an office north of 60 for the first time in more than a decade. The Canadian Polar Commission is looking to hire a new employee based in the North, after receiving a long-awaited infusion of cash in April from the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The $240,000 investment will address a longstanding problem highlighted by the Auditor General and the commission itself - a complete absence in the region the organization is tasked with gathering and sharing knowledge about. Global Regina 


IlisagvikBrower Sees Bright Ilisagvik Future. As Ilisagvik's Pearl Brower returned from maternity leave this March, she came back to two jobs instead of one. While remaining under her official role as Dean of Students and Institutional Development, she also took on the responsibilities of Interim President. The board will be making a decision about the permanence of that currently-temporary position in June. But the few months she has spent filling the presidential shoes, Brower said, have been exciting ones. The Arctic Sounder

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No Arctic legislation was formally considered Friday.

Future Events               


The Tenth International Conference on Permafrost, June 2012. The conference will be held in Tyumen, Russia, and is organized and hosted by Russia. The last conference was held in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2008. Click here.  


The Institute of the North hosts Arctic-related events. For details, go here. Three upcoming events, all in Anchorage, AK are: (a) Commercial Applications of Northern Airships, July 31-Aug 2, Federal Research: Priorities and Processes, August 13, and Northern Energy Technology and Science Fair, August 15.


15th International Congress on Circumpolar Health, August 5-10, 2012. This event is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Society for Circumpolar Health, and the International Union for Circumpolar Health.  The forum will consider community participatory research and healthmeetinglogoindigenous research; women's health, family health, and well-being; food security and nutrition; social determinants of health; environmental and occupational health; infectious and chronic diseases; climate change health impacts; health service delivery and infrastructure; and behavioral health. Click here.


98th meeting of the US Arctic Research Commission. Aug. 9-10. Fairbanks, AK. More info coming soon. 


The Arctic Imperative Summit, August 24-28, 2012. The summit will be hosted by Alaska Dispatch and will bring together leading voices in this conversation, including residents from the small villages that comprise Alaska's coastal communities, state, national and international leaders, the heads of shipping and industry, as well as international policymakers and the news media. The goal of the summit is to sharpen the focus on the policy and investment needs of Alaska's Arctic through a series of high level meetings, presentations, investor roundtables and original research. Click here


Arctic/Inuit/Connections: Learning from the Top of the World , October 24-28, 2012.  The 18th Inuit Studies Conference, hosted by the Smithsonian Institution, will be held in Washington, DC. The conference will consider heritage inuitconferencelogomuseums and the North; globalization: an Arctic story; power, governance and politics in the North; the '"new" Arctic: social, cultural and climate change; and Inuit education, health, language, and literature.   


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