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State Intervenes in Ribbon Seal Litigation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

No. 09-103


December 17, 2009, Juneau, Alaska – The State of Alaska today intervened in federal court to support the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) decision not to list the ribbon seal as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

NMFS had concluded that evidence does not support an ESA listing of the ribbon seal, and the state has moved to support that decision against attack by environmental groups.

“Today’s intervention in the ribbon seal case is part of our broader strategy of protecting jobs and responsible resource development from environmental groups’ misuse of environmental laws like the ESA,” said Governor Sean Parnell.

The lawsuit seeking listing of the ribbon seal under the ESA was initially filed by Greenpeace, Inc. and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). CBD also petitioned the federal government to list the polar bear as threatened under the ESA.

Both the ribbon seal and polar bear cases rely on the legal theory that Arctic species should be listed under the ESA due to the effects of climate change, even though their populations are robust. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the ESA jointly with NMFS, adopted that legal theory in deciding to list the polar bear. NMFS, in declining to list the ribbon seal, rejected it.

“This expansive legal theory is flawed and potentially threatens Alaska’s economic future,” said Attorney General Dan Sullivan. “We are fighting to make sure it does not gain traction, and therefore we are supporting NMFS’ decision not to list the ribbon seal.”

Governor Parnell’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget includes funding for an additional attorney at the Department of Law specifically to handle only ESA issues, as well as $800,000 for outside counsel to take on ESA-related work on the state’s behalf.

“We will continue to focus on establishing a legal framework that promotes economic opportunity and development, while preserving the health and abundance of our wildlife,” said Sullivan.

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