The future of U.S. involvement in the Arctic is uncertain as it hands leadership of an international panel committed to protecting the region over to Finland.

On May 11 in Fairbanks, Alaska, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave Finland the reins of the Arctic Council, a multinational forum that promotes cooperation and coordination among the eight Arctic states, with a special focus on sustainable development and environmental protection of the region.

The change in leadership comes at a time when the U.S. is mulling...