Hayes Outlines Next Steps in Facilitating Science-Based Decisions in the Arctic

Alaska Interagency Working Group to partner with Arctic Research Commission, others to develop central knowledge database; will develop Integrated Arctic Management approach to planning decisions

Last edited 09/05/2019

WASHINGTON, DC – As part of the Obama Administration's commitment to facilitating evidence-based decision-making in the Arctic, Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes today announced two new efforts to further strengthen the role of science in resource management decisions regarding both onshore and offshore energy development activities in Alaska.

The Administration, through the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska, established by executive order in July 2011, will begin work to establish a centralized hub of scientific information to help inform decision-makers and the public. The Alaska Working Group will also prepare a framework for building a more integrated approach to evaluating potential infrastructure development in the Alaskan Arctic. The initiatives are outlined further in a memorandum available here.

“The federal government must take a comprehensive, science-based approach when addressing energy and other development issues in the Arctic – one that recognizes both the region's enormous resource potential and its irreplaceable natural and cultural resources,” said Deputy Secretary Hayes, who serves as chair of the Alaska Interagency Working Group. “Getting it right in the Arctic requires a transparent, disciplined and integrated approach so that we can make sound, long-term planning decisions. Today's efforts are important steps toward strengthening our scientific knowledge-base and opening up the lines of communication between the science community and decision-makers.”

First, the Alaska Interagency Working Group will partner with the Arctic Research Commission and other members of the scientific community to develop a centralized and accessible database of scientific information and traditional knowledge relevant to resource management in the Arctic—with special consideration to ensuring that cultural and traditional knowledge are fully integrated. The initiative will build upon existing data collections, such as the North Slope Science Initiative's Data Catalogue, Arctic ERMA, regional observing systems, private industry and the University of Alaska's Geographic Information Network of Alaska, and it will complement existing interagency efforts like the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, which is developing a five-year plan for Arctic research in FY 2013-2017.

“Pulling relevant Arctic science information together in a more accessible and consolidated portal is critical,” said Fran Ulmer, Chair of the Arctic Research Commission. “I look forward to continuing to work with Deputy Secretary Hayes and the mix of scientists and policy-makers involved in the Alaska Interagency Working Group – including my colleagues Dr. John Holdren, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Dr. Marcia McNutt, Dr. Subra Suresh, and Dr. Alan Thornhill, among others – to make this happen.”

Second, the Alaska Interagency Working Group will prepare an initial report to address key elements of an “Integrated Arctic Management” framework for evaluating potential infrastructure development in the Alaskan Arctic. Working closely with the State of Alaska, Alaska Natives, local communities and the many agencies and stakeholders that have been focusing on specific projects or regions, the framework will pull together Arctic-wide information that is relevant to future decision-making, including: (1) ecologically and culturally important areas, natural resources and processes, and key drivers of environmental changes in the Arctic; (2) trends – environmental and otherwise – that affect these resources over time; and (3) commercial, societal, and governmental trends that could lead to future infrastructure related needs in the Arctic.

As a member of the eight-nation Arctic Council, the United States has embraced the concept of using this type of an “ecosystem-based management” approach to assist in making sound decisions regarding potential future infrastructure development in the Arctic. It recognizes the importance of a comprehensive approach in the Arctic, rather than evaluating activities on a sector-by-sector, project-by-project, or issue-by-issue basis.

Completion of these initial key steps will lay the foundation for a full dialogue in how best to develop and apply an Integrated Arctic Management approach when making important development decisions in the Arctic.

The Alaska Interagency Working Group will engage with a wide variety of governmental entities and stakeholders, including the State of Alaska, Alaska Natives, local communities, industry, and conservation groups on these efforts and expects to present a report to President Obama on the initial efforts by December 31, 2012.

Today's announcement builds on efforts by the Alaska Interagency Working Group to enhance collaboration between the scientific community and decision-makers in the Alaska Arctic. For more information on the initiative, click here.


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