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Upcoming Arctic meetings in Alaska

  • Author: Alaska News
  • Updated: July 8, 2016
  • Published August 6, 2015

With the U.S. taking chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council earlier this year, Alaska is poised to welcome a flurry of Arctic-related conferences, symposiums and other events. Some are directly related to the council, while others are not. Here are some of the Arctic-related events the state is hosting in the coming months and years:

• The Institute of the North's Hickel Day of the Arctic and Robert O. Anderson Sustainable Arctic Award ceremony is scheduled for Aug 18 in Unalakleet. The event is named for former Interior Secretary and Alaska Gov. Walter Hickel, who founded the institute and championed circumpolar cooperation; the award is named for the founder of Atlantic Richfield Oil Co., an oilman who oversaw discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay. This year's honoree is Wilfred Boyuck Ryan, founder of a small company called Unalakleet Air Taxi that grew into Ryan Air.

• A conference on shipping and port development, the Arctic Circle Forum in Alaska, is scheduled for Aug. 23 through 25 in Anchorage. Sponsors include Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff, Iceland President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and former Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. Treadwell is president of an Arctic-focused asset management company, Pt Capital; Rogoff is one of the company's senior advisers. The forum is a precursor to what has become an annual event, the Arctic Circle Assembly, to be held in October in Iceland. Grímsson is president of the nonprofit Arctic Circle organization, and Rogoff chairs it.

• The U.S. Arctic Research Commission holds its 104th meeting in Alaska Aug. 24 through 26. The first day of the meeting is scheduled for Anchorage, with a discussion of mental and behavioral health on the agenda. The conference's next two days are scheduled for Nome, with more discussion of mental and behavioral health, along with presentations on local and regional science work. Sessions on research about walruses, polar bears and reindeer are on the agenda, as is a presentation about Korean research in the Bering Strait.

• The GLACIER conference, with President Obama and other leaders, comes next, on Aug. 30 and 31, with a precise Anchorage location to be be announced. Officials from all eight Arctic nations are invited, as are top-level officials from non-Arctic nations such as China, the United Kingdom, Korea and Singapore.

• The Eighth Polar Law Symposium, one in a series of such meetings, is scheduled for Sept. 23 through 26. Hosts are plentiful -- Alaska Pacific University, the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Washington School of Law, Vermont Law School and Alaska Bar Association's Arctic Law Section. It is the first polar-law symposium to be held in the United States; the first two days will be in Fairbanks at UAF, and the second two in Anchorage at UAA. Subjects to be explored, according to the preliminary program, include scientific knowledge, indigenous interests, resource management and extraction, marine issues and the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea, which the United States has not ratified. Subject matter is not limited to the Arctic or Alaska; Antarctic and the "Third Pole," the glaciated Himalaya region, are also on the agenda.

• Immediately after that is the Arctic Energy Summit, a biannual event held in various parts of the Circumpolar North. The summit, Sept. 28 to 30, will be held in Fairbanks. The Institute of the North is one of the hosts, and there is an Arctic Council connection. Information from the summit will be forwarded to the council to help inform policy. The summit's agenda includes discussion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, local energy challenges and opportunities in isolated northern communities and oil and gas development. Indigenous knowledge will get attention, as will the industry perspective. Some high-profile attendees are expected, including Robert Papp, the retired U.S. Coast Guard commandant who was appointed last year as the nation's special representative to the Arctic. Gov. Bill Walker is scheduled to be there, and regional governors from around the Arctic have been invited.

• A meeting of the Arctic Council's Sustainable Development Working Group will follow the energy summit on Oct. 1 and 2 at Chena Hot Springs. It is one of six Arctic Council working groups; others are devoted to topics like the marine environment, emergency response, control of contaminants and plant and wildlife conservation.

• At the same time as the working group's meeting will be the 2015 Arctic Science Conference, scheduled for Oct. 1 through 3 at UAA. The conference is hosted by the Arctic division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It has a specific focus on nearshore zones and estuaries; it is titled "Healthy Estuaries: Sustainability and Resilience."

• The Arctic Council's Senior Arctic Officials – top officials from each of the eight member nations who do the council's day-to-day work -- will meet in Anchorage on Oct. 20 to 22. The SAOs, as they are known, are government officials, usually from foreign ministries, who represent their nation's interests at the council. The SAO for the U.S. is Julia Gourley. With the U.S. chairmanship, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Balton now chairs the group of eight SAOs.

• Future Sustainable Development Working Group meetings are scheduled for March 11 and 12 in Barrow, Sept. 29 and 30, 2016 in Unalaska and Feb. 7 and 8, 2017 in Kotzebue. Those locations are in the home regions of indigenous organizations that are designated as "permanent participants" in the Arctic Council.

Future SAO meetings are also scheduled for March 16 and 17 in Fairbanks and March 7 through 9, 2017 in Juneau.

A full council ministerial, the capstone meeting for the U.S. chairmanship term, will be held in the spring in Anchorage, but details have yet to be set.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified David Balton as both the U.S. Senior Arctic Official and the SAO group chair. Balton is SAO chair, while Julia Gourley is U.S. SAO. The article has been updated to reflect this.