Quick Facts

Arctic Territory
All United States territory north and west of the boundary formed by the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim Rivers; all contiguous seas, including the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort, Bering and Chukchi Seas; and the Aleutian chain.

Arctic Population
Approximately 50,000

Arctic Indigenous Peoples
Aleut, Alutiiq, Yup’ik, Iñupiaq (Northwest Alaskan Inuit), Athabaskan, Tlingit and Haida

The United States and the Arctic Region

The United States became an Arctic nation upon the purchase of Alaska in 1867. Regions above the Arctic Circle include the North Slope Borough, the Northwest Arctic Borough and the Nome Census area. Alaska is the largest and the least densely populated state in the United States. The state has approximately 737,400 inhabitants, over half of whom reside in the two major cities Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Petroleum production and mining have been major industries in Alaska. Other prominent industries include fishing and tourism, which are of rising importance and demand. Nearly two million people travel to Alaska each year to visit its vast glaciers, mountains and wildlife.

The United States has varied interests in the Arctic, including national and homeland security, environmental protection, sustainable development, promoting cooperation and collaboration with the other Arctic nations, involving Indigenous peoples in decisions that affect them and supporting and promoting scientific research across the region. The country’s goal is a secure and stable region free of conflict where its interests are safeguarded, its homeland is protected and Arctic States work cooperatively to address shared challenges. The United States Arctic policy was most recently updated in May of 2013 and supports the 2009 National Security Presidential Directive-66 / Homeland Security Presidential Directive-25.

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples in Alaska include the Aleut, Alutiiq, Yup’ik, Iñupiaq (Northwest Alaskan Inuit), Athabaskan, Tlingit and Haida. Of these peoples, the Yup’ik, Athabaskans and Iñupiaq live above the Arctic Circle and rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing. Approximately 18 percent of the Alaskan population are Indigenous.

The United States in the Arctic Council

The United States held the country’s first Arctic Council chairmanship from 1998-2000, and again from 2015-2017. Throughout its first chairmanship, the United States’ priorities included:

  • Human health, including telemedicine and disease surveillance
  • The effects of climate change in the Arctic
  • Sustainable Arctic tourism development

Throughout its most recent chairmanship, the United States’ priorities included:

  • Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship, including search and rescue cooperation, oil pollution preparedness and response, maritime protection, maritime shipping and ocean acidification monitoring
  • Addressing the impacts of climate change
  • Improving economic and living conditions in the Arctic, including pursuing innovative technologies, advancing mental wellness research and addressing telecommunications infrastructure

Key accomplishments

  • The United States, together with the other seven Arctic States, launched the International Circumpolar Surveillance (ICS), a region-wide disease surveillance system led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • The United States launched the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), the first-ever comprehensive scientific assessment of the effects of climate change in the Arctic, which was completed under Iceland’s chairmanship in 2004
  • The United States and Russia co-chaired a special task force on science cooperation under the auspices of the Arctic Council that led to the conclusion of a legally-binding “Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation,” which was signed by foreign ministers at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting on May 11, 2017 in Fairbanks, Alaska.
  • The U.S. has served as chair of both Expert Groups on Marine Environmental Response and Search and Rescue in exercising the “Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic” (signed 2013) and the “Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic” (signed 2011).
Meredith Rubin
Meredith Rubin
Senior Arctic Official; U.S. Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

Contact for press inquiries
+1 (202) 485 1540

Featured Projects

Red Knots. Photo: Morten Ekker

Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI)

Improving the status and secure the long-term sustainability of declining Arctic breeding migratory bird populations.

Marine Biodiversity Monitoring

Arctic marine environments are experiencing, or expected to experience, many human-induced and natural pressures.
Photo: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP)

The CBMP is an international network of scientists, governments, Indigenous organizations and conservation groups working to harmonize and integrate efforts to monitor the Arctic's living resources.

Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter

The Regional Action Plan addresses both sea and land-based activities, focusing on Arctic-specific marine litter sources and pathways that will play an important role in demonstrating Arctic States’ s...

Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) of the Central Arctic Ocean

PAME has teamed up with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) to investigate the current state of the Central Arctic...

Underwater noise in the Arctic

PAME's State of Knowledge Review on Underwater Noise in the Arctic report provides a baseline understanding of underwater noise in Arctic regions, including ambient sound levels, underwater noise crea...
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Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECM) Areas in the Arctic Marine Environment

An overview of the current range and understanding of international and national criteria used for identification of OECMs in the Arctic.

Solid Waste Management in Small Arctic Communities

This project seeks to provide a number of in-person and online resources to address the unique needs of Arctic communities, from planning to implementation of solid waste management practices. Infrast...
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Ecosystem Status, Human Impact and Management Measures in the Central Arctic Ocean

The aim of this project is to synthesize relevant information on the status, trends and projected changes in the Central Arctic Ocean, human activities and pressures in the area, and the current manag...
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Meaningful Engagement of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Marine Activities

Meaningful Engagement of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Marine Activities (MEMA) is a cross-cutting oil & gas and shipping project which compiles and analyzes existing documents and summa...
Photo: CAFF

Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring

Temperature can affect terrestrial ecosystems through thawing permafrost, snowmelt, drought, fires, changes in phenology (with subsequent implications on the food web), encroachment of invasive specie...
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Management of Arctic Marine Oil and Gas Associated Noise

The continuation of Arctic marine oil and gas activities requires a better understanding of the sources of noise and the effects and potential effects of noise on marine mammals and fish. Of critical ...

Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum

The Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum facilitates an exchange of information and best practices on shipping topics like hydrography, search and rescue logistics, industry guidelines and ...
Photo: Hjalti Hreinsson

Gender Equality in the Arctic

GEA is an international collaborative project focusing on gender equality in the Arctic, beginning in 2013. Phase 3 of the project began in 2019.
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Could expedition cruise vessels be an oil spill response asset in the Arctic?
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Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer Network (CLEO)

Our world is changing rapidly, and local observers can detect subtle changes in weather, landscapes and seascapes, and in plant and animal communities.
Photo: iStock / RyersonClark

One Arctic, One Health

A theoretical concept and practical approach for developing and sustaining broad interdisciplinary collaboration – to identify, prevent, and mitigate health risks in humans, animals and the environmen...
Soot on ice. Photo:iStock

Arctic Black Carbon Case Studies Platform

Across the Arctic, countries and communities are taking action to reduce black carbon emissions. The Black carbon case studies platform highlights mitigation projects and policies relevant to the Arct...

Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON)

SAON's vision is a connected, collaborative, and comprehensive long-term pan-Arctic Observing System that serves societal needs. SAON's mission is to facilitate, coordinate, and advocate for coordinat...
Permafrost erosion in Alaska. Photo: USGS / M. Torre Jorgenson

Climate Issues: Cryosphere, meteorology, ecosystem impacts

AMAP is further developing work on thresholds and extremes, Arctic/mid-latitude weather connections and performance of global models in the Arctic, with contributions from the meteorology community. T...

Arctic Ship Traffic Data - ASTD

PAME's Arctic Ship Traffic Data (ASTD) project has been developed in response to a growing need to collect and distribute accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on shipping activities in the A...
Garbage incinerator in Greenland. Photo: iStock / olli0815

Community-based black carbon and public health assessment

Assessing and mitigating the risks of black carbon to public health.
Cod drying. Photo: iStock

Blue Bioeconomy in the Arctic Region

The sustainable and intelligent use of renewable aquatic natural resources, with a focus on improving utilization and creating higher-value products.

Arctic Shipping Status Reports

The Arctic Shipping Status Report (ASSR) project‘s main objective is to utilize the ASTD System to develop a user-friendly, illustrative informational factsheets online to highlight important developm...
Murres on cliff. Photo: iStock

Coastal Biodiversity Monitoring

Arctic coastal ecosystems include those areas within the Arctic region where fjords, glaciers, rocky coasts, coastal wetlands, estuaries, rivers, lakes, and coastal ocean ecosystems meet and interact ...
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Collaboration with the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission (ARHC)

PAME and the Arctic Regional Hydrography Commission (ARHC) have developed a joint policy statement on the importance of hydrography in the Arctic region to safe and sustainable maritime navigation.

Arctic Resilience Action Framework (ARAF)

The ARAF is a framework to advance a coordinated, regional approach to building resilience and adapting to rapid change.
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Systematically Strengthening Observer Engagement in PAME’s Shipping Work

This project will identify options for leveraging Observer interest, expertise and engagement in PAME’s shipping work.

Prevention, Preparedness and Response for small communities

EPPR has been working with small communities to improve their safety in case of an oil spill event.
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Arctic Port Reception Facilities Inventory

Developing a current inventory of Arctic port reception facilities to assess where there may be infrastructure gaps in light of increasing Arctic shipping traffic.

Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy (ARENA)

ARENA seeks to increase human capacity, promote leadership, and deploy traditional and local knowledge through the creation of a knowledge exchange program emphasizing the development, operation, and ...
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Arctic Arrangement for Regional Reception Facilities

Due to the Arctic’s unique circumstances (remoteness, severe weather, limited infrastructure and resources) regional arrangements are a practical means of meeting MARPOL obligations.

Mainstreaming Arctic Biodiversity

Identifying challenges and solutions for incorporating biodiversity considerations Arctic development and the Council's work
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Fishing Practice & Gear Inventory

Enhancing Understanding of Abandoned Lost or otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG)