Alaska to sue federal government over polar bear habitat
The state of Alaska filed notice at the end of December 2010 stating their intention to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over protections recently put in place to protect polar bears. Governor Sean Parnell argues that the critical habitat designation that was announced by the government last month will cost jobs and increase costs. Parnell said that the designation could kill resource development projects important to Alaskans.
“Once again, we are faced with federal overreach that threatens our collective prosperity,” Parnell stated. “We don’t intend to let this stand.”
Designation of a critical habitat does not automatically block economic activity or other development, but requires federal officials to consider whether a proposed action would adversely affect the polar bear’s habitat and interfere with its recovery. Some 95% of the designated habitat, which covers 187,000 sq mi, is sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska’s north coast. Polar bears spend the majority of their lives on ocean pack ice where they hunt seal, breed and travel.
Governor Parnell contends that the critical habitat designation in the oil-rich area could result in lost economic activity and tax revenue for the state. Alaskan officials and the state’s oil and gas industry maintain that polar bears do not need the additional protection. “Already, there are state laws, international agreements, and the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act to protect polar bears,” Parnell said. He also said the state has given the Interior Department a 60-day window in which to repeal or revise the “critical habitat” declaration.