Department of Law files new briefs in lawsuit, warns of slippery slope
October 23, 2009
"Some are attempting to use the Endangered Species Act as a way to shut down resource development," Governor Parnell said. "I won't let that happen on my watch. I will support resource development and the jobs that are generated for our rural communities by taking strong action in the courts to advocate for Alaska."
The governor laid out a three-part strategy during a press conference Wednesday:
Attorney General Sullivan said it's important to understand the dire consequences of the legal theory being advanced by groups that are misapplying the ESA and distorting its purpose.
"There are two competing visions of the future of Alaska," Sullivan said. "Ours is one in which responsible resource development proceeds apace and protections remain in place for wildlife, including polar bears, which we treasure. The other vision is one in which Alaska's resources are locked up, our economy languishes, we lose population and we lack the capacity to maintain schools, roads, bridges, harbors and airports, or to provide for public safety. It is imperative that this latter vision does not become a reality."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopted the "threatened" listing for polar bears last year, prompting the lawsuit by the state.
State officials are questioning the modeling used by the Fish and Wildlife Service to project the loss of sea ice and predict impacts to polar bears. Polar bear numbers have remained healthy throughout their range following past years with less sea ice.
Another issue concerns the failure of the office of the secretary of the Interior Department to provide a timely response to objections raised by the state. The state received its response a full five weeks after the listing already had been adopted.
Governor Parnell said the state will seek partnerships when possible:
"Alaska will work with the federal government, local communities and stakeholders interested in conservation by supporting appropriate conservation measure in those cases that make sense for Alaska."
On Thursday United States Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) commented on a proposal announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) designating 200,000 square miles in Alaska for polar bear critical habitat. The announcement opens a 60-day public comment period on the proposal. The polar bear was listed as threatened last year under the Endangered Species Act due to a loss of sea ice habitat caused by climate change, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
"We are in the process of getting more specific information on the restrictions associated with this proposed critical habitat designation and detailed boundaries of the physical areas in play," said Murkowski in a prepared statement Thursday. "I remain concerned that this designation may result in losses for domestic energy development, America's energy independence and Alaska's culture and livelihood. This proposed designation potentially includes huge portions of Alaska's northern coastal lands upon which Alaskans depend."
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