Send this article to Promobot

Governor appoints Arctic locals to climate change team

December 15th, 2017 | Shady Grove Oliver Print this article   Email this article  

Three North Slope and Northwest Arctic residents will take up positions on the governor's new Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team. Gov. Bill Walker announced the appointments on Tuesday.

"Naming our team is another critical step in advancing meaningful climate policy," Gov. Walker said in a statement. "I am proud to present a motivated group of leaders, each of whom brings a range of expertise and interests to the table. Our team members not only represent a breadth of experience across the state from the North Slope to the Southeast, but also have strong networks and resources spanning from Alaska to the rest of the world, giving us a voice in the global dialogue on climate change."

The team comprises 15 full members, chosen for their backgrounds in science, policy, wellness, industry and advocacy, and five ex-officio members, whose positions make them useful assets to the group. Nearly 100 people put their names in as possible candidates for the team; this group was picked for their backgrounds and expertise.

John Hopson Jr., of Wainwright, Nicole Kanayurak, of Utqiaġvik, and Reggie Joule, of Kotzebue, will represent the Arctic region on the team.

As the Sounder has previously reported, Kanayurak is the youth representative to the Inuit Circumpolar Council. Through that position, she has worked on suicide prevention campaigns, food security issues across the circumpolar region and more.

She is also a 2017 Knauss Marine Policy Fellow based at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection, according to the release from the governor's office. There, she has worked on international negations and fisheries policy and legislation.

Hopson is a well-known leader on the North Slope. He is currently the mayor of Wainwright and president of the North Slope Borough Assembly.

He is an active subsistence hunter and chairs the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. Additionally, he is a vice chairman of the recently-formed group, Voice of the Arctic Inupiat, which represents regional and village corporations, local governments and a handful of organizations on the Slope.

Joule is the one ex officio member from the Arctic. He is the former mayor of the Northwest Arctic Borough and a former representative in the Alaska House. He is also a member of the Polar Research and Policy Initiative.

As the governor's office noted, Joule was appointed to the President's State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience by President Barack Obama during his time in office.

"This dynamic group has the experience, ideas and enthusiasm to develop actionable policy recommendations in response to our changing climate," said Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who will chair the leadership team. "Their collective advice and recommendations for climate priorities, actions and goals will provide invaluable guidance to the governor and Alaskans as we work together to address the challenges and opportunities associated with climate change."

Other appointees include Ralph Andersen, of Dillingham, Linda Behnken, of Sitka, Lisa Busch, of Sitka, Luke Hopkins, of Fairbanks, Mara Kimmel, of Anchorage, Meera Kohler, of Anchorage, Michael LeVine, of Juneau, Mark Masteller, of Palmer, Molly McCammon, of Anchorage, Denise Michels, of Nome, Chris Rose, of Anchorage, Isaac Vanderburg, of Anchorage, and Janet Weiss, of Anchorage. The other ex officio member are Duncan Fields, of Kodiak, Jim Johnsen, of Fairbanks, Sam Schimmel, of the Kenai Peninsula and St. Lawrence Island, and Fran Ulmer, of Anchorage.

The group was created by Administrative Order 289 in October as a way to put local knowledge to work and prioritize climate change issues as they relate to the state. According to the announcement, the Institute of the North will function as the secretariat for the team. They plan to focus on climate change research, response, mitigation and adaptation, and will advise the governor on these issues on a regular basis.

The group's first meeting is scheduled for Dec. 18 in Anchorage.

Shady Grove Oliver can be reached at


Copyright 2018 The Arctic Sounder is a publication of Alaska Media, LLC. This article is © 2018 and limited reproduction rights for personal use are granted for this printing only. This article, in any form, may not be further reproduced without written permission of the publisher and owner, including duplication for not-for-profit purposes. Portions of this article may belong to other agencies; those sections are reproduced here with permission and Alaska Media, LLC makes no provisions for further distribution.