Skip to main Content

Obama's Alaska plans include Native roundtable, Exit Glacier hike

White House officials on Friday confirmed new details about President Barack Obama's travels in Alaska, including glacier viewing and plans to interact with Alaskans to discuss climate change and economic issues.

Obama's scenic tour of Alaska's coasts will include a short hike to a glacier near Seward and a boat tour, meetings with Native leaders and fishermen, and an address to residents north of the Arctic Circle.

The president has been looking forward to the trip, according to Brian Deese, Obama's top adviser on climate, conservation and energy, who briefed reporters on a call from Washington, D.C.

The White House hopes to take Americans along with Obama on his trip, with "opportunities to interact" online and posts of pictures and travel diaries on Facebook and Instagram, Deese said.

As expected, the trip will remain largely focused on climate change.

"We view this as part of a broader and longer-term effort by the president and the administration to speak openly, honestly and frequently about how climate change is already affecting the lives of Americans and the strength and health of our economy, and also what we can do individually and collectively to address it," Deese said.

To that end, the president plans to "meet with Alaskans and hear from them about what's going on in their lives and how climate change is impacting them now," Deese said.

After arriving in Anchorage on Monday, Obama will participate in a roundtable with Alaska Natives, according to press secretary Josh Earnest, who briefed reporters Friday.

Obama will discuss climate change impacts with them, as well as "other economic challenges," Deese said.

Obama will also meet with Gov. Bill Walker, Deese said.

Monday evening, Obama will address the GLACIER conference gathering of foreign ministers and Alaskans interested in the Arctic, with a likely focus on climate change and its impact on the Arctic.

On Tuesday, Obama will go to Seward. While there, he will hike to Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park and take a tour of the Kenai Fjords on a Coast Guard cutter.

The trail to Exit Glacier includes markers showing the extent of the glacier in previous decades before it receded to its current point. Scientists estimate that Exit Glacier has retreated about 1.25 miles due to climate change, Deese said.

Obama "will have an opportunity to spend some time in the park and experience both the beauty and the impact that the climate has had on the area," Deese said.

Obama also plans to meet with Seward residents in the fishing and tourism industries, Deese said.

On his final day in Alaska, Obama will meet with fishermen and families in Dillingham and deliver remarks in Kotzebue, Earnest said.

Both communities were chosen so the president could view the impacts climate change has had on the fishing industry and on people who live above the Arctic Circle.

Concerns have been expressed across Alaska that Obama will make some sort of statement during his visit about further restricting drilling or other natural resource development.

Deese said Obama's "long term vision for our nation's energy sector" includes heading toward zero-carbon renewable energy. But "that's a transition that is not going to happen overnight," Deese said.

The president is likely to make a policy announcement in Kotzebue, but it may not be the anti-drilling action that some in the state expect.

Obama will speak to "ways the government can encourage" and support communities' efforts to use renewable energy and adapt to changing climate, rather than a "one-size-fits-all solution," Deese said.

Principally, the president plans to discuss "new policy initiatives ... that are about trying to identify ways that the federal government can work with the communities and the tribal governments and the state to build on successes" in renewable energy, he said.

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.