State Announces Intent to Sue
Over Polar Bear Habitat Designation
December 21, 2010, Juneau, Alaska – The State of Alaska today notified U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar of its intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service over the expansive designation of critical habitat for polar bears, which have been listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The notice provides a 60-day window in which the secretary may withdraw the designation or correct the violations of the ESA made by the Fish and Wildlife Service in designating critical habitat. If no action is taken, the state can file its litigation.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has designated an unprecedented 187,157 square miles of critical habitat for the polar bear, an area larger than 48 of the 50 states, even though the agency acknowledges that the designation will not provide substantial protection for the animals.
“We already have state laws, the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and international agreements that provide strong conservation measures for polar bears,” said Governor Sean Parnell. “The polar bear is one of the most protected species in the world. The additional regulations and consultations and likely litigation that would be triggered by this habitat designation would simply delay jobs, increase the costs of, or even prevent resource development projects that are crucial for the state.”
The state contends that the Fish and Wildlife Service disregarded federal law by including geographical areas in the designation in which there is little or no evidence of physical or biological features that are essential to conservation of polar bears. For example, Norton Sound is included as critical sea ice habitat even though the mapping does not show the area even within the range of polar bears. And by designating nearly the entire geographical area that can be occupied by the polar bear, the Fish and Wildlife Service has violated the ESA, according to the state.
“Federal officials also disregarded comments submitted by the state and failed to fully consider the economic impact and national security implications of the critical habitat designation,” the governor said. “Once again, we are faced with federal overreach that threatens our collective prosperity. We don’t intend to let this stand.”