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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 Species Act.

"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 conservation measures.

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."


Source of News:

Office of the Governor


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska