President Barack Obama responded to appeals from Alaska Native villages and gave them more of a say in the federal management of marine resources of the Bering Sea.
(From ABC News / by Dan Joling)– Obama signed an executive order Friday to create a Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area that will focus “locally tailored” protections on marine resources.
The newly created resilience area covers 112,300 square miles and stretches from north of the Bering Strait to north of Bristol Bay.
The order requires more focused federal consultation with Alaska tribes and 39 communities that line the west coast of Alaska, along with state officials.
The area supports what may be the world’s largest annual marine mammal migration of bowhead and beluga whales, Pacific walrus, ice seals and migratory birds.
The order also withdraws from federal petroleum leasing 40,300 square miles of Norton Basin and the offshore area around St. Matthew Island, two places already recognized as important marine mammal hunting areas.
Kawerak Inc., a regional non-profit corporation that provides social services to Alaska Native Villages along Alaska’s west coast, and the Bering Sea Elders Group in June urged Obama to give villages more of a voice to promote self-determination in management of natural resources and habitat.
Residents of coastal villages have seen dramatic changes brought on by climate change, mostly in the form of sea ice that forms later in the winter and disappears sooner in spring. Changes in ice have modified migration patterns of marine mammals, in some cases making hunting uncertain and more dangerous.
Loss of sea ice also has opened opportunities for expanded cargo traffic, offshore petroleum drilling, tourism and other commercial activities, changes that that villages may not welcome and that could affect the security of their traditional food from the sea.
The executive order establishes a task force with village representation that will consult on federal management activities in the area and work to protect cultural and subsistence activities.
Read the full article here: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/obama-creates-resilience-area-protect-bering-ecosystem-44091697