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Alaskans should sound off to guide Arctic policy

Alaska is the reason the United States is an Arctic nation, yet as a state we lack the cohesive message needed to influence federal Arctic policy. The Alaska Arctic Policy Commission was created to ensure Alaskans have a seat at the table -- and we need to hear your voice.

Alaska's future is in the Arctic. With all of the challenges and opportunities on the horizon, it is imperative that Alaskans take charge to shape our own Arctic future. We envision that Arctic future as one that benefits all Alaskans, a safe and secure Arctic, an expansive landscape full of opportunity, with a healthy environment and vibrant communities.

As policymakers in the state, we know Alaskans recognize that an increasingly active Arctic region will require a balance between the tremendous opportunities available and any potential risks. The Alaska Arctic Policy Commission's Preliminary Report (available online at www.akarctic.com) shows you our work on the policy, strategy, and recommendations, and also provides a summary of the current state of Alaska's Arctic.

The Preliminary Report has been open for public comment since Feb. 1 and closes May 15, 2014. We have a survey on our website that offers a fun and easy way for you to submit feedback on the Preliminary Report -- you can also find information there about submitting more detailed comments. Please take this opportunity to share your ideas for our Arctic future.

This preliminary report will serve as a roadmap for ensuring that Alaska maximizes opportunities and overcomes the challenges that accompany our role as the U.S.'s only Arctic state. This Arctic policy will become a significant document to help shape Alaska's future and benefit Arctic residents, citizens of the United States, and visitors who share her waters and land.

We also encourage you to attend one of our meetings, which will all include public testimony. The commission meets in Anchorage on May 6 and 7, Kotzebue on Aug 26, Nome on Aug. 27, and again in Anchorage on Nov. 13 and 14. All meetings will be broadcast live at akl.tv. In addition, the commission will host listening sessions in September and October in several communities across the state -- please see www.akarctic.com for updates.

There is broad agreement among Alaskans that the developing and changing Arctic will be an important part of our state's future. Please add your voice to the plan for this exciting new frontier and the opportunities it holds for Alaska and its people.

Sen. Lesil McGuire, an Anchorage Republican, has served in the Alaska Legislature since 2001. She is currently co-chair of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission.

Rep. Bob Herron, a Bethel Democrat, has served in the Alaska Legislature since 2008. He is currently co-chair of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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