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Governor Welcomes Ribbon Seal Decision

December 23, 2010, Juneau, Alaska – Governor Sean Parnell today welcomed a judge’s ruling against listing the ribbon seal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and said this decision once again demonstrates the importance of the State of Alaska acting to join in ESA-related litigation.

The U.S. District Court in Northern California Tuesday upheld a decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) not to list the ribbon seal as threatened or endangered under the ESA. The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace, environmental organizations, sued NMFS based on the argument that the seals faced potential habitat loss from sea ice conditions in the sub-Arctic, including the Bering Sea.

The judge’s ruling for summary judgment in favor of NMFS utilized the State of Alaska’s legal brief and the administrative record of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game – involving more than 60 documents dating to 1970 -- regarding ribbon seal numbers, the health of the population of about 200,000 seals and hunting patterns.

“This is a case where we sided with the federal government against an effort by environmentalists to place more obstacles in the way of resource development,” the governor said. “Regardless of who we must take on in court, we will fight the attempt to misuse the ESA to address climate change issues.”

The judge, in ruling that NMFS did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in finding two years ago that a listing of ribbon seals was not warranted, rejected an interpretation of the ESA that “would result in all or nearly all species being listed as threatened.”

“This ruling shows that a third-party stakeholder, such as the State of Alaska, can bring important information to the table that is not presented by the principal parties in the lawsuit and that can be pivotal in the final ruling,” said Attorney General John Burns. “We will continue to closely monitor ESA listing petitions and decisions, and we will be prepared to intervene or file suit ourselves when it is necessary to protect the state’s interests.”

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