Recovery Investments Put Alaskans to Work
The Department of the Interior is investing $85 million in Alaska under the President’s economic recovery package. Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Tom Strickland, in a week-long visit to the state, has covered thousands of miles from the Kodiak Island to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to highlight the investments in parks and refuges. He reports that they are laying a foundation for economic growth in Alaska communities. The following actualities are from a phone interview with Assistant Secretary Strickland on Tuesday just before his Blackberry lost its signal in the wilds of Denali National Park.
Topic: The National Park Service is starting to use some of its $21.8 million while the Fish and Wildlife Service will eventually put to use more than $10 million in Alaska. Assistant Secretary Strickland says it will help address deferred maintenance and infrastructure.
“I’ve been able to view a number of recovery act projects that are underway and many more that are in the works. In fact I look forward to coming back next summer and seeing these projects, many of which I think will be completed or well into completion by next summer. But right now we’ve got the planning and some of them have commenced. So it’s been exciting and encouraging to see that with the recovery dollars we’ve been able to address some huge backlogs and our infrastructure needs in our parks and refuges as well as the other federal agencies that received dollars for Alaska. So very encouraging reports from the field.”
Topic: Many of the projects promote renewable energy and energy efficiency while at the same time putting Alaskans to work.
“With respect to Kodiak for example, there’s wind power that’s going into some of our Fish and Wildlife Service projects, very kind state-of the art vertical wind that’s very responsive to the environment. And elsewhere I’ve seen dollars that are going into repairing roofs and doing important roadwork etcetera, so a number of specific things but I actually met one of our recovery act hires and it was great to see that, that took effect immediately and literally people were being hired right out of the box.”
Topic: On his trip, Strickland has gathered information about climate change and says Alaska is already feeling the impact of it.
“We do have areas that are in the midst of change. I got a very good briefing from our biologists and scientists about how the migration of certain species is being affected and as the permafrost melts, the classic wetlands and bogs are soaking into the ground and so you see a drying up of certain areas. And of course the melting sea ice is very dramatic this year. They showed me satellite photos of the melt at Beaufort and Chukchi Seas and very significant melting which is consistent with the last number of years. So from that standpoint Alaska is kind of right at the point of the spear if you will in terms of feeling the impacts of climate change and the challenges that that brings.
Topic: The Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks wants everyone to know that Alaska is a very friendly and beautiful place to visit.
“The reception I’ve received here in Alaska has been fantastic. The people are incredibly warm; they are committed to this place. There’s a camaraderie I think that pulls people together here given the shared challenges and joy of living in this beautiful place. And they’re welcoming of visitors and they very much want to share this beauty with folks from, not only the lower 48, but around the world. So my message I guess I’ll bring back is ‘Alaska’s open for visitors, it’s got some of the best hunting and sporting activities on the planet, its got some of the most magnificent landscapes and we’ve got gorgeous national parks and we’ve got gorgeous wildlife refuges and I know the BLM lands are beautiful as well.’