Obama assigns Arctic science policy to White House

President Obama has moved arctic science policy oversight to a White House council, according to a news release from the U.S. Arctic Research Commission.

Arctic science policy will be organized by Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, the news release announced Thursday.

Holdren is a member of the White House National Science and Technology Council. Under the new organization, the council’s environment and natural resources committee will oversee activities of the federal Interagency Arctic Research and Policy Committee.

The interagency committee was created by Congress in 1984 at the urging of then-Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska. It surveys arctic research to help set federal priorities in natural resources, physical and biological sciences and social and behavioral sciences.

The same act of Congress established the Arctic Research Commission, a presidentially appointed group that recommends broad arctic policy goals. The commission has seats for four scientists, two private industry representatives and an indigenous leader.

“The commission has long encouraged this change, and we’re pleased with the president’s action,” Michele Longo Eder, an Oregon attorney and fishing company owner who is acting chairwoman, said of the president’s reorganization of research oversight. “IARPC needs to draft a new five-year arctic research program plan, and we’re hoping to see it completed in less than a year.”

In June, Obama appointed Mary Pete, director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Kuskokwim campus in Bethel, to the indigenous people’s seat on the commission. Other Alaskans include Helvi Sandvik, president of NANA Development Corp. and Buck Sharpton, UAF’s vice chancellor for research.

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