Executive Order: Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience

President Obama’s Executive Order establishes the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area in response to requests from the native coastal tribes in this region for the Federal Government to take action to protect the health of the marine ecosystems, while maintaining sustainable fishing and economic development opportunities. The subsistence practices of these communities, along with inter-related marine ecosystem stability are threatened by warming ocean temperatures, sea ice loss,  sea level rise, increasing maritime traffic, and oil and gas leasing.

The Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area institutes local environmental protections related to oil and gas, shipping, and fishing. The Order also creates a Task Force charged with coordinating Federal activities in this area to enhance ecosystem and community resilience, conserve natural resources, and protect the cultural and subsistence values this ecosystem provides for Alaskan native communities.

Additionally, agencies are directed to incorporate traditional knowledge in decision making and establish a Tribal Advisory Council for engaging with regional tribal governments to seek their input on Federal activities.

ShippingThe Coast Guard is nearing completion of a Port Access Route Study for the Bering Straight region due to increased shipping in the area. The EO directs the Coast Guard to “give careful consideration to community recommendations regarding environmentally sensitive Areas to Be Avoided” and publish its findings by the end of 2016.

FishingThe Order makes it Federal policy to support the continued prohibition on bottom trawling, which destroys sensitive benthic ecosystems.

Oil and GasUnder the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the President has withdrawn Norton Basin planning area and portions of the St. Matthew-Hall planning area from future oil and gas leasing to further protect the regional ecosystem and coastal communities. The total area withdrawn from leasing through this EO is 40,300 square miles.

The EO also establishes a Federal Task Force on the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area, under the Arctic Executive Steering Committee established by Executive Order 13689. The Bering Task Force will coordinate Federal activity and consider additional mechanisms to reduce impacts to subsistence and cultural activities within the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area. 

The Task Force will be formally recognizing the needs of Alaskan native tribes by establishing and engaging in regular consultation with a Bering Intergovernmental Tribal Advisory Council. The Council will consist primarily of tribal government representatives with participation from Federal, state, and local officials for coordination purposes.

 

The area is described as a 112,300 square mile, hugely productive, high-latitude ocean ecosystem that supports one of the largest seasonal marine mammal migrations in the world, including thousands of bowhead and beluga whales, hundreds of thousands of walruses and ice seals, and millions of migratory birds. It is home to more than 40 tribes of coastal Yup’ik and Inupiaq peoples whose way of life has been linked with the marine environment for thousands of years.

 

 

 

Publication Date: December 9, 2016

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