PNWER North American Leaders Forum

The Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) Arctic Caucus held a high-level Roundtable on the North American Arctic with the Alaska Congressional Delegation, along with other speakers from the Pacific Northwest, to give their insight on the North American Arctic. The event was moderated by Matt Morrison, Executive Director of PMWER and featured the following speakers:


  • Alaska State Rep. Bob Herron, Co-Chair of the Arctic Caucus, and Alaska Arctic Policy Commission
  • Denis Stevens, Deputy Head of Mission, Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC
  • Professor Arthur Mason, Rice University
  • Drue Pearce, Crowell & Moring, LLP
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski
  • Senator Dan Sullivan
  • Congressman Don Young
  • Admiral Robert Papp (Ret.), Arctic Special Representative, U.S. Department of State
  • John Higginbotham, CIGI Senior Fellow


In his introduction to, Alaska Rep. Bob Herron gave an Alaska perspective on national and subnational Arctic Policy.


The Alaska Arctic Policy Commission (AAPC) Implementation plan, available at, offered 32 strategic recommendations. Rep. Herron highlighted three of these recommendations:


3 d. Anticipate, evaluate, and respond to risks from climate change related to land erosion and deterioration of community infrastructure and services; and to support community efforts to adapt and relocate when necessary.


4 a. Ensure state funding as well as partnership with the University of Alaska for Arctic research that aligns with

state priorities and leverages the university’s exceptional facilities and academic capacity.


4 e. Support monitoring, baseline, and observational data collection to enhance understanding of Arctic ecosystems and regional changes


Heron reiterated Line of Effort 3 – to support healthy communities, which can allow for improved quality of life throughout the entire Arctic region without compromising the economic security and wellbeing of other communities or the state.


Herron explained that there are two Arctic committees in Alaska’s legislature – The Senate Special Committee on the Arctic, which is co-chaired by Senators Liesel McGuire and Cathy Giessel, and the House Special Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Arctic Policy, which Herron chairs.


The last time these committees met was October 2015, when they reviewed the Walker Administration’s progress on AAPC’s line of effort 3. The two committees are also planning to meet in the near future to discuss an Arctic Investment Protocol. These meetings are a part of their broader, longer term goal to continue to lead the enactment of the AAPC Implementation Plan.


Herron gave an overview on the state of Alaska’s Arctic Policy Priorities:

  • Investment in Arctic infrastructure, which he stressed was important.
  • Sharing offshore petroleum revenues with the state, tribes, and communities.
  • The 32 strategic recommendations in the AAPC.


The PNWER Arctic Caucus is led by Herron, along with Premier Bob McLeod, Co-Chair of Northwest Economic Territories, and Minister Secretary Stacey Hassard, Co-Chair of Yukon. They work together on mutual northern subnational priorities, and frequently conduct visits to Washington, DC and Ottawa. Their next meeting will be in Calgary during the PNWER annual Summit, July 17-21, 2016.


Admiral Robert Papp said he recently participated in a meeting in Ottawa where it was agreed that there is no threat of national security challenges in the Arctic in the next 10 years. That being said, national security is more than just national defense. All types of security come into play in the Arctic. This includes environmental security, food security, and more.


Matt Morrison commented that one way to streamline the icebreaking process would be to use the plan of another Arctic state building an icebreaker. For instance, the U.S. could use Canada’s plan and not use time and resources on a new U.S. design.


Adm. Papp responded that U.S. icebreaking needs differ from Canada’s. An icebreaker ported in Seattle would need to travel much further on its way to the Arctic than an Icebreaker ported in Canada. Additionally, the U.S. icebreaker must also be able to travel all the way to Antarctica.


David Biette, Fellow at the Wilson Center, asked if there are other breakers in U.S. Arctic waters that are run by other entities aside from the Coast Guard. Adm. Papp responded that Shell has an icebreaker that could potentially be leased and used by U.S. federal agencies, but work would need to be done on the ship before it could carry out Coast Guard responsibilities.


Denis Stevens, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Administrator, sated that with the new Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, there is a stronger emphasis on multilateral approaches.


The Prime Minister has committed to engaging meaningfully with the Indigenous peoples in Canada.  Canada’s national budget also appropriates funds to continue deep-water port development in Iqaluit.


Sen. Lisa Murkowski mentioned recently introduced legislation that will pave the way for pre-clearance facilities at ports of departure in Canada to make sure that we have a process that is smooth and efficient. This is important to the relationship between Alaska and Canada.


Sen. Murkowski also noted the Senate Energy and Natural Resources energy bill that will have a positive impact on the Pacific Northwest Economic Region related to hydropower licensing and re-licensing, as well as security with minerals development, which is currently in a vulnerable position similar to that of oil.


Sen. Dan Sullivan said that Department of Defense forces in Alaska have a long history of working side-by-side with Canadians, an example of how the integration component can work well.


The Alaska military triad is the cornerstone of the U.S.’s missile defense, and the hub of combat air power.


Rep. Don Young said there are 31 minerals above the Arctic Circle, but they are unavailable because of the lack of transportation infrastructure. There needs to be a national, state, and Native plan to access these resources.


Morrison added that in Canada, there is the “New Building Canada Plan” a report that evaluates the transportation sector and infrastructure every ten years. In the last report, there were comments about strengthening the transportation corridors in the Arctic.


Rep. Young responded that in Canada, the Arctic is a bigger issue, and it is going to take some leadership to elevate Arctic issues in the U.S.


John Higginbotham, CIGI Senior Fellow, spoke further about the transportation system in Canada’s Arctic. There was an 18-month study done of the transportation system, out of which came a 20-30 year plan of increasing investment in transportation and marine corridors. They also touch upon specific issues that are not covered under the broad Arctic strategy.


The plan also includes a new deep-water port in Iqaluit, the construction of a new icebreaker, and Arctic Offshore Patrol vessels that would belong to the Navy. Canada will eventually want to do something with those vessels aside from just using them to demonstrate sovereignty.


Drue Pearce gave a presentation on sustainable development and economic security in the Arctic.


According to Pearce, the goal of the Sustainable Development program of the Arctic Council is to propose and adopt steps to be taken by the Arctic States to advance sustainable development in the Arctic. This includes pursuing opportunities to protect and enhance the environment and the economies, culture and health of indigenous peoples and Arctic communities.


She added that the guiding tenet running throughout the work of the SDWG is to pursue initiatives that provide practical knowledge and contribute to building the capacity of indigenous peoples and Arctic communities to respond to the challenges and benefits from the opportunities in the Arctic region.


Pearce said economic stability is key to healthy communities, and lists the top priorities of people living north of the 60th parallel (from the Munk Gordon Report)

  • Capacity to provide good access/high quality health care, education and safe drinking water
  • Capacity to respond to disasters and emergencies
  • Public infrastructure
  • Preservation of traditional culture and way of life in the North


Resource development creates a tax base which allows local governments to provide infrastructure and basic services, which in turn create healthy communities with sustainable economies.


Pearce ended her presentation by saying the people of the Arctic must be allowed to develop their natural resources to provide for their families and to protect their culture.