Alaskans fly south for Arctic symposium

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent makes an approach to the Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo by Patrick Kelley/U.S. Coast Guard)
The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent makes an approach to the Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo by Patrick Kelley/U.S. Coast Guard)

The University of Washington School of Law is hosting policymakers from Alaska and around the country for discussions on Arctic security and politics, development, transportation and shipping, environmental protection, and climate change.

The third annual Arctic Encounter Symposium runs Friday through Saturday in Seattle.

Elected Alaska officials, academics, municipal and Native corporation representatives, and some of the Coast Guard’s top officers are expected to attend.

Bethel Rep. Bob Herron is part of a panel that will discuss development of a port system, and improving communications and mapping of the Arctic. He said they’ll also talk about reducing heating costs, developing adequate water and sewer systems for Arctic communities, and responding to the effects of climate change.

“I think that we have to remind them that maybe we are the best to be deeply involved, and not to take us for granted,” Herron said.

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, Anchorage Sen. Lesil McGuire and Craig Fleener, the Walker administration’s Arctic policy adviser, are some of the other Alaskans participating in panel discussions or addressing the conference.

Herron is attending again this year in his role as chair of the House Economic Development, Tourism & Arctic Policy Committee. He admits to being annoyed whenever he hears comments from nonresidents that imply that Alaska needs saving from Alaskans.

“We’re not someone’s convenient snow globe so they can look inside the snow globe and see all these little fur-clothed, subsistence people living in a zoo, in a museum, in an environment where they must protect it,” Herron said. “There’s a couple times where I’ve felt that I’ve been patted on the head and they’ve said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll take care of you.’”

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, co-chair and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee respectively, will also attend the symposium.

Herron said it’s good that the symposium is being held in Seattle this year.

“We’ve got to bridge this Pacific Northwest, western Canada future,” Herron said. “You can’t separate Alaska from the Arctic. You can’t separate Alaska from our Canadian neighbors. And, even though we’re not directly connected to the Pacific Northwest, we still have all that history.”