State of Alaska to Sue Over
Polar Bear Listing
May 22, 2008
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin announced Wednesday the state of
Alaska intends to file suit in U.S. District Court for the District
of Columbia challenging U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne's
decision to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered
"We appreciate the Secretary's recognition that oil and
gas activities are already regulated under the Marine Mammal
Protection Act to prevent impacts to the polar bear and do not
pose a threat to the polar bear," Governor Palin said.
In previous comments submitted to the Secretary, the state maintains
that there is insufficient evidence to support a listing of the
polar bear as threatened for any reason at this time. Polar
bears are currently well-managed and have dramatically increased
over 30 years as a result of conservation measures enacted through
international agreements and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
A listing of the polar bear under the ESA will not provide additional
The Attorney General's office will draft and file a complaint
under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Secretary's
decision to list a currently healthy species is based on not
only the uncertain modeling of future climate change, but also
the unproven long-term impact of any future climate change on
the species. Alaska's Attorney General believes the decision
is so arbitrary it violates the limits of the APA.
The Attorney General's office will also begin drafting a 60-day
notice of intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act. This
action is based on the Secretary's failure to make a decision
based solely on the best available scientific and commercial
information. It is also based on the Secretary's unwarranted
expansion of the "foreseeable future" into periods
where detailed forecasts of climate change are not possible.
A 60-day notice is a legal prerequisite to bringing an action
directly under the ESA.
The state is also monitoring ongoing litigation related to the
polar bear listing in the Northern District of California and
will consider intervention in that lawsuit if it becomes clear
that the court in that case intends to address substantive rather
than just procedural issues.
"While climate change is a significant issue, the Endangered
Species Act is not the right tool to address impacts to a species
from climate change," Attorney General Talis Colberg said.
"Inappropriate implementation of this listing decision could
result in widespread social and economic impacts, including increased
power costs and further increases in fuel prices, without providing
any more protection for the species," Department of Natural
Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin said.
"While the state is challenging the listing, we remain committed
to assuring Alaska's polar bears are conserved," Governor
Palin said. "The state will continue to monitor Alaska's
polar bear populations and their behaviors in relation to changing
sea ice conditions."
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