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Cook Inlet Region’s Economy Endangered by Federal Decision on Beluga Whales

(JUNEAU) – Today’s announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that 3,016 square miles of Cook Inlet will now be designated as critical habitat for Cook Inlet beluga whales was greeted with a mix of disappointment and relief by Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage.

“I am relieved the Port of Anchorage and the Eagle River Flats Range were excluded,” said Rep. Millett. “The remaining areas are of great concern to me because of the unknown impacts it will have on management and development of resources in the Cook Inlet area and especially the Port McKenzie area.”

The Alaska Legislature passed a resolution last year, HJR 40, sponsored by Rep. Millett. It opposed a critical habitat designation for Cook Inlet belugas. It cited clear evidence the population was rebounding and that a new harvest plan enacted in the late 1990’s paved the way for the comeback.

The fact that the beluga population is on the rebound was never mentioned in the decision announcing the critical habitat designation. It also made the questionable statement that the costs stemming from a critical habitat designation are outweighed by its benefits.

Rep. Millett will continue to oppose the critical habitat designation and ask the agency to reconsider its decision.

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