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Idaho and the Arctic Caucus

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Idaho's interest in the Arctic, from a Seat in the House

I serve as one of Idaho’s legislative delegates to the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, an organization that I have referred to in previous Journal articles. Very briefly, PNWER “is a public/private non-profit organization created by statute in 1991 by the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington, the Canadian provinces and territories of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and the Yukon. PNWER’s mission is to increase the economic well-being and quality of life for all citizens of the region, coordinate provincial and state policies throughout the region, identify and promote ‘models of success’ and serve as a conduit to exchange information.”

PNWER members accomplish its mission through the use of several different work groups that meet formally once a year to address various issues of interest to both the U.S. and Canadian members and then develop action items to pursue over the next year that will provide recommendations for policy actions or solutions to issues of controversy for policy makers to consider in addressing issues of concern to both countries. This year the annual summit took place July 14-19 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Both Representative Eric Anderson and I from our legislative district serve as Co-Chairmen of two of these working groups. I serve as Co-Chairman of the Energy II working group that in recent meetings has been emphasizing the need to support energy efficiency programs and development of renewable energy resources to help in meet the region’s energy needs in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

Representative Anderson serves as Co-Chairman of the Invasive Species working group. The individual state and provincial borders and the international border “poses a challenge in controlling invasive species because of differing policies on regulation, inspection and understanding of invasive species that can leave jurisdictions in both countries at risk.” In our area the potential of Quagga and Zebra Mussels has become a very serious threat. This working group has effectively provided for regional cooperation in preventing the introduction of these and other invasive species into the region.

Of the many issues PNWER is pursuing, one that is gaining heightened attention, is the interest of several nations in development of the natural resources in the Arctic Region and creating transportation routes for maritime shipping through the region that could shorten transportation routes and reduce shipping costs.

PNWER has formed the Arctic Caucus that is aimed at “establishing a coordinated approach of shared solutions to address common challenges. The Arctic Caucus is the foundation of PNWER’s capacity to engage a sub-national voice at the national level on Arctic issues.” The objectives of the Arctic Caucus are to:

• Increase the visibility and priority of Arctic issues in PNWER activities

• Build cross-jurisdictional support to achieve mutual goals

• Identify areas of opportunity for mutual economic development in the Arctic

• Provide support to member jurisdictions to help them achieve their individual goals

The Caucus was formed in part from a concern that the United States as a country is not taking a significant interest in the Arctic Region and may lose influence in the development of this region.

Alaska U.S. Senator Murkowski in speaking at the PNWER summit summarized significant concerns of the PNWER Arctic Caucus by stating: 

“We in Alaska recognize that we are an Arctic nation, but it’s tough to get that recognition from some of our colleagues in other states. The senators from Iowa don’t necessarily think that they are in an Arctic nation, but they are by virtue of the state of Alaska.”

The Senator went on to say that “the disconnect between the interest of the United States in investing in the Arctic compared to other nations was made all the more clear at a recent Arctic Council meeting in Sweden. While other nations with no Arctic coastline but plenty of interest jockeyed for a place as observers to the council action, the United States was only just putting forth a policy for future investment in the region.”

The PNWER Arctic Caucus is working to bring a heightened involvement by the United States in the development of the Arctic region. The involvement of the United States in concert with the state of Alaska is important in the development of this region in insuring that the concerns and interest of those who live in the region are considered and that the unique environment of the region is protected as development and transportation interests are pursued by various countries interested in the economic potential of this area.

The Arctic Caucus is representative of PNWER’s success in establishing a forum to bring issues of international importance to the forefront and providing recommendations or direction to policy makers and private interests in addressing these issues.

Thanks for reading and as always feel free to contact me at my home email at geskridge(at)coldreams.com, by phone at (208) 265-0123 or by mail at P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho 83825. George

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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

Tagged as:

PNWER, Idaho Legislature, A Seat in the House, Arctic caucus

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