U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen, a Democrat, joined Republican Jim Sensenbrenner in sponsoring a bill that would establish a United State Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs.
Larsen, known for prior "across the aisle" work with Alaska's Don Young and other Republicans, represents the closest House district to the Arctic after Alaska's Young. He's been active in Arctic issues and has sought funding for construction of a new heavy-duty icebreaker and rehabilitation of the mothballed Polar Sea, one of only two American heavy-duty icebreakers.
Responding to questions from the Journal, Larsen made the following statement:
“Rep. Sensenbrenner approached me to co-sponsor this bill because he knew of my interest in the Arctic region. I appreciate opportunities to work across the aisle on issues like this that are important to our national security, economic and environmental interests. I have led efforts to make sure the U.S. is equipped with icebreakers so our ships have safe passage through the Arctic, which is an increasingly important trade route. I also believe our country needs to pay more attention to the environmental and security concerns that melting Arctic sea ice will create and an Arctic ambassador would better position us to do so."
The bill would elevate the U.S. delegation to the Arctic Council to ambassadorial rank before the U.S. assumes the chairmanship of the council, which consists of eight arctic-bordering countries, including the U.S., Canada and Russia, and is the main forum for international negotiation and discussion of arctic issues, such as oil resource exploitation and all-season shipping routes.
More than 20 U.S. government agencies are involved in arctic issues.
— Steve Wehrly