Begich Sees the Future in the Arctic

Photo by Libby Casey, APRN - Anchorage: Sen. Mark Begich talks to a reporter in the US Capitol Tuesday. Members are now heading home. Begich says they should have addressed the FAA situation first.

US Senator Mark Begich said today that Alaska’s future is in helping develop the resources — and increasing the United State’s presence– in the Arctic.

Begich made his observations at his annual address to a joint session of the House and Senate at the Capitol.   He said the state has the resources, the people, the ingenuity and the location to make things happen.

What we have is an enormous potential for us as a state.  The question is Are we going to grab it and are we going to move it forward?   And there are morsels of opportunity sitting on our doorstep.  It’s just a question, are we going to think – in those days when Alaska had nothing and we thought big – is that our moment today?  I believe it is.  When I look at the Arctic and see what the potential is, it’s beyond what anyone can imagine what’s out there.  And there’s no better place to take advantage of that than right here in Alaska.

He says the federal government is beginning to recognize its part in developing the Arctic.  And although the state faces its share in federal budget cuts,  it still is the highest recipient of federal investment – per person – of any state.  He said a recent report showed that for construction, road and port maintenance and defense alone,  Alaska’s income jumped $4-Billion in the past three years.

He pointed to challenges such as the risk of military consolidations and cuts in other federal programs , while recognizing what he called “limitless” opportunities.

Nowhere do we enjoy new opportunities more that with Alaska’s Arctic resources,   Oil and Gas, minerals, fisheries, tourism, transportation,  the list goes on and on.  We can best seize these opportunities by working together to invest in our facilities and our education and our work force.

Begich called for a combination of state, federal and private resources to develop the Arctic economy from Alaska rather than cede the leadership position to Russia, China or Canada.  He warned:  our competitors are not waiting for us.

These countries are investing right now in deep water ports, ships, resources, mapping and more.  China, which isn’t … well, they may think they’re an arctic nation, but they’re not … but they are busy acting like one.  They are seeking participation in the Arctic Council and building new vessels to supplement the Ice Dragon – their current icebreaker.   Meanwhile, the United State still has not ratified the Law of the Sea,  which provides us international framework to exercise our rights in the arctic.

On another federal matter,  the Senator said the state needs to request a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act that subjects Alaska students to federal standards.  He said most states have taken advantage of the opportunity to separate themselves from the federal government’s micro-management of local school districts and he encouraged the state to withdraw from the program, too.

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