Senator Mark Begich welcomed the appointment of Northwest Arctic Borough (NWAB) Mayor Reggie Joule to the White House's State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness where he will bring an Alaska perspective to federal discussions about preparing communities for the consequences of climate change.
"Alaska is ground zero for climate change and the people of my home state are feeling its near-term effects far more than the residents of any other state in the nation," said Sen. Begich. "Alaskans are dealing with retreating sea ice, rapidly eroding shorelines, thawing permafrost, ocean acidification, and changing fish and wildlife migration patterns. I nominated Mayor Joule because I know he will be a great asset to the task force and will bring both a real-life perspective and, most importantly, an Alaska perspective."
An Alaska voice on the task force is critical as demonstrated through a 2009 General Accounting Office report which cites 31 villages in Alaska that are facing imminent threats due to erosion and flooding. Twelve of these villages have explored relocation to some degree. More broadly, Alaska has 33,907 miles of tidal shoreline, a distance longer than the Lower 48 states combined. In addition, there are more than 3,000 rivers in Alaska. From 1978 to 2008, there have been 228 flooding events that have led to state disaster declarations for 119 different Alaska communities. These floods are growing more costly and frequent. In May 2013 flooding displaced the entire community of Galena.
Mayor Joule served in the Alaska House of Representatives for 16 years, where he championed rural Alaska issues and helped create and chair the Northern Waters Task Force and now serves on the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission. Recognized as an Alaska Native leader, he has also served on the NANA Regional Corporation board of directors as well as working for the Kotzebue tribal government.