Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Alaska Sues Federal Government On Polar Bear ESA Listing

Aug 4: Governor Sarah Palin announced that the State of Alaska has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to overturn U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne’s decision to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) [See WIMS 5/15/08]. This action follows written notice given more than 60 days ago to Secretary Dirk Kempthorne of the Department of the Interior and Director Dale Hall of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking that the regulation listing the polar bear as threatened be withdrawn. Governor Palin said, “We believe that the Service’s decision to list the polar bear was not based on the best scientific and commercial data available.”

According to a release from the Governor's office, the Service’s analysis failed to adequately consider the polar bears’ survival through prior warming periods, and its findings that the polar bear is threatened by sea-ice habitat loss and inadequate regulatory mechanisms to address sea-ice recession are not warranted. The Service also failed to adequately consider the existing regulatory mechanisms, including conservation measures within Alaska and the international community, which have resulted in a sustainable worldwide polar bear population that has more than doubled in number over the last 40 years to 20,000-25,000 bears.

The release indicates, "The State takes seriously its obligation and interest in the management, conservation, and regulation of all wildlife and other natural resources within its jurisdiction. Alaska is also responsible for the welfare of its citizens, who are concerned that the unwarranted listing of the polar bear as a threatened species will have a significant adverse impact on Alaska by deterring activities such as commercial fisheries, oil and gas exploration and development, transportation, and tourism within and off-shore of Alaska."

Three environmental groups issued a statement on the lawsuit. Kassie Siegel, climate program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, and lead author of the 2005 petition to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act said, “The State of Alaska’s challenge to the protection of the polar bear is a lost cause based on discredited, industry-funded attacks on science. This case has no merit, and the Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC, and Greenpeace will be seeking to intervene in the lawsuit and have it dismissed.”

Access a release from the Governor's Office (
click here). Access the statement from the environmental groups (click here). Access a copy of the complaint posted on the Climate Law Update blog (click here). [*Wildlife, *Climate]