Alaska files appeal in polar bear case that may limit oil and gas exploration, development and production

Source: State of Alaska, Office of the Governor

The State of Alaska filed an appeal challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2008 listing of the polar bear as a threatened species. The state seeks to overturn a June decision of the US District Court for the District of Columbia that upheld the listing.

“The State of Alaska and the federal government agree on a key fact in this case - the population of polar bears has grown during a period of climate change from a low of about 8,000 – 10,000 in the late 1960s to approximately 20,000 - 25,000 today,” Alaska Governor Parnell said. “The Endangered Species Act was not intended for species that are healthy with populations that have more than doubled in the last 40 years.”

“For the first time under the Endangered Species Act, the federal government listed a species based on uncertain predictions of future threats of habitat loss in the distant future, rather than on actual observed population declines or threats to the species,” Attorney General Burns said. “The government listed a species that is at an all-time historical high in population with a relatively stable distribution and population throughout its range. The government’s forecasts are replete with uncertainty and divergent outcomes that do not support the polar bear’s threatened listing.”

In filing this appeal, the state notes its concern with the precedence this listing may have on future climate associated listings. An example is the recent proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Service to list the ringed seal as a threatened species due to speculated habitat impacts through the end of the century. These seals currently number between 3 and 7 million, have robust vital rates, and are not in danger of extinction.

The state filed its notice of appeal today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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