Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today met with business leaders in Anchorage to discuss the need for safe and responsible development of Alaska's energy resources. Today's meetings are part of Secretary Salazar's multi-day visit to Alaska this week, where he is joined by U.S. Senators Mark Begich, Lisa Murkowski and Jack Reed. This marks Secretary Salazar's third trip to the 49th state since taking office in January 2009.
Joined by Senator Begich and Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, Secretary Salazar first met with business and labor leaders during a morning roundtable to discuss ongoing and proposed oil and natural gas exploration activities in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Secretary Salazar highlighted the recently formed high-level interagency working group that will be chaired by Deputy Secretary Hayes and is tasked with coordinating energy development in the Arctic Ocean and onshore.
"Alaska's energy resources hold incredible economic opportunities for people here in Alaska and for the nation," said Salazar. "As we move forward with a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to harnessing Alaska's energy supplies, it is imperative that we continue to be guided by the best available science and that we ensure that the state's land, water, and wildlife are protected for future generations."
"This trip is another great opportunity to showcase the enormous oil and gas potential in Alaska," Senator Begich said. "Additionally, Sec. Salazar, Sen. Reed and Mr. Hayes will also hear directly from Alaska Native leaders as well as business and labor leaders about how Alaska can contribute to meeting the nation's energy demands, create jobs and help keep the economy healthy."
As part of Interior's work to strengthen the government-to-government relationship with Alaska Natives and American Indians, Salazar and Hayes then met with Native leaders regarding issues affecting local communities, including the draft Interior Tribal Consultation Policy. Salazar thanked the leaders for their comments on the draft policy and reiterated Interior's commitment to improve the federal government's accountability and communications with tribal and Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) entities in rural and remote locations.
"The voices of Native leaders have been instrumental in guiding our activities in Alaska," added Deputy Secretary Hayes. "An effective consultation policy will not only help restore trust and build better relationships, but it will ultimately lead to stronger, healthier and more prosperous tribal communities."
Later today, Secretary Salazar and Deputy Secretary Hayes will travel to Fairbanks to tour the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Alaska Fire Service (AFS) firefighting facilities with Senators Murkowski and Reed. Created in 1982, the BLM AFS provides wildland fire suppression services for all Interior and Native Corporation Lands in Alaska and assists those entities with other fire management activities.
Remaining stops in the Secretary's three-day trip to Alaska include a visit to a Indian Health Services (HIS) funded hospital currently under construction in Barrow, and visits to Denali National Park, the North Slope, and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.