House Passes Arctic Policy Bill

The Alaska House of Representatives has passed legislation outlining the state’s Arctic policy.

The bill lays out the state’s values concerning the Arctic, and provides a general sense of direction for how lawmakers would like to see it developed. It acknowledges the “risks of a changing climate,” but also declares that the Legislature is “optimistic” that a “new era of economic and resource development” could benefit Alaska.

The bill offered on Friday also recognized the importance of the state’s indigenous cultures and the value of preserving them, but it did not specifically mention the state’s Native languages. Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and Ketchikan Independent Dan Ortiz offered an amendment to specifically mention language in the bill, noting the declining numbers of speakers.

“They feel that a huge part of their culture is imperiled,” said Kreiss-Tomkins. “I think it’s very important for us in a policy sense and also as an institution to recognize that the Native language are of an immeasurable cultural value to the state and who we are as a people.”

While one objection was raised that the amendment was redundantly, the measure was ultimately adopted unanimously.

An amendment offered by Eagle River Republican Lora Reinbold that would have stripped language supporting ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty failed 9 to 25. Reinbold argued that participation in that treaty would cede some of the nation’s sovereignty.

The Arctic policy bill passed 32 to 2, with North Pole Republican Tammie Wilson and Wasilla Republican Lynn Gattis voting against it.

The legislation will now be considered by the Senate.