The newly appointed U.S. special Arctic representative, former Coast Guard Commandant Robert Papp, has issued a call for ideas about policies that should be promoted at the Arctic Council once the United States assumes chairmanship of that eight-nation body next year.

Mount McKinley (Alaska). (Source: A major goal for him, as he prepares for the two-year U.S. chairmanship, is convincing the American public that the Arctic is important to the nation, Papp said at a listening session Thursday in Anchorage.

Heather Hudson, professor of public policy at the University of Alaska Anchorage, cited telecommunications as a potential focus of the Arctic Council. The council, under U.S. leadership, could promote improvements in broadband communications and work to expand telemedicine, distance education and other communications-based services that would improve lives in remote parts of the Arctic.

Regional energy development should be a major focus of the Arctic Council under U.S. leadership, said others.

“Life in communities is going to be really hard to continue without some relief from the current energy regime that we’re in,” said Matt Ganley of the Bering Straits Native Corp. Without some changes to energy supply, local economic development is not possible, he said. He cited his corporation's efforts to reopen the Rock Creek gold mine near Nome. The corporation’s studies have found that energy costs would eat up 40 percent of the per-ounce gold-production expenses, he said.

Meera Kohler, president of the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, had a similar message. “The Arctic is incredibly energy-rich. Yet the citizens of Alaska are energy-poor,” she told Papp and his delegation.

Food security should be a priority of the Arctic Council, some told Papp.

A common message from those advising Papp: The Arctic Council needs to make sure that it involves and engages the people who live in the Arctic, especially the indigenous people of the circumpolar north.

Source: Alaska Dispatch News