Anchorage Daily News OPINION: Strengthening our commitment to the Arctic together

As we continue to respond to the wreckage left by Typhoon Merbok and prepare for the challenging winter ahead, we are thankful. While the storm was devastating, we will recover. Our communities, friends and neighbors have pulled together and reminded all of us why we are blessed to live in rural Alaska. The outpouring of support we have received across Alaska, from our dedicated first responders to everyday Alaskans, also shows the best of our great state. When disaster strikes, Alaskans are there for each other. Above it all, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the congressional delegation have shown real leadership and rolled up their sleeves for Alaskans. I want to especially thank Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Congresswoman Mary Peltola for visiting the region and truly listening.

But our delegation isn’t just responding to this crisis. They continue to look forward and advocate for policies and projects that will both enhance the resilience of our communities and respond to a rapidly changing Arctic. While most Americans don’t think about the Arctic until cable news grabs hold of an impending disaster, our delegation has ensured that the Arctic remains relevant and unforgotten in the halls of our great nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan have driven attention to the Arctic through their dynamic combination of unique roles and positions within congress. On the Senate Armed Services and Senate Commerce Committees, Sen. Sullivan is ensuring the Arctic is a critical part of our national security and defense strategies. From her senior position on the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Murkowski has delivered the real dollars that transform authorizations into actual infrastructure, ice breakers and deployments.

During Typhoon Merbok we saw multiple vessels, including two cruise ships, seek refuge from the storm in the protected, deep waters of Port Clarence. Our delegation has long seen the need for a strategic system of ports and harbors throughout the Arctic and the unique role Port Clarence plays in that system. These needs will only increase as vessel traffic, especially as the transit of Russian oil tankers through the Bering Strait en route to China increases. Sens. Murkowski, Sullivan and our dear late Congressman Don Young haven’t just advocated for the necessary infrastructure, they have consistently made sure that local communities are included in the processes and benefits of those developments.

Sen. Murkowski’s recently introduced Arctic Commitment Act keeps our communities at the forefront as it seeks to curtail Russia’s advances in the Arctic. This bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by another champion for the Arctic, Sen. Angus King, is a comprehensive approach that is desperately needed to ensure that communities and people of the Arctic have a strong say and role in the development of the Arctic. By integrating defense, commerce, research, response and infrastructure, the Arctic Commitment Act provides an integrated vision for the Arctic while also pushing for the institutional reforms needed in federal agencies to execute on that vision. It is a vital starting point, and we look forward to working with Sen. Murkowski and Sen. King on the bill as it works its way through Congress.

Typhoon Merbok is certainly not the last storm that will threaten our region. Our changing climate and the geostrategic importance of our region will create ever more complex challenges for our region, people and state. But with leadership that genuinely listens to, engages with and supports our people we will not just recover, but will reinvigorate our region in support of a peaceful and prosperous Arctic.

Gail R. Schubert is president and CEO of Bering Strait Native Corp.

By:  Gail Schubert
Source: Anchorage Daily News