Native Groups Plan to Challenge Federal Overreach by Filing Lawsuit Over Bearded Seal ‘Threatened’ Listing
Federal Government Ignores Concerns of Alaska Native Community
ASRC today filed a notice of intent to sue the Department of Commerce, challenging the listing of two bearded seal populations as “threatened”. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation joins the North Slope Borough and Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (ICAS) in filing its challenge. This coalition of Alaska Native groups is seeking relief for the government’s violation of the Endangered Species Act. NANA Regional Corp. and the Northwest Arctic Borough are currently considering filing similar challenges.
“As I stated in 2011, the Alaska Native community has long been a key partner in the effort to maintain a healthy population of marine mammals along the North Slope,” said Rex Rock Sr., ASRC president and CEO. “It’s disappointing to see our input, our insight, and our legitimate concerns once again disregarded by the federal government.”
In his letter explaining ASRC’s intent to sue, Rock stated, “The best available science does not support listing the bearded seal” as threatened, and pointed out that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has “acknowledged that bearded seal populations are currently robust, are widely distributed throughout their range, have a high degree of genetic diversity, and are not currently at risk of extinction.”
The notice of intent to sue also alleges that the NMFS improperly relied on long-term projections that are inconsistent with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The model projected 87 years into the future, in a departure from NMFS’s previous practice where they acknowledged in 2008 that modeling beyond 2050 yielded results “too divergent for reliable use.”
George Olemaun, President of the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, explained, “The bearded seal is and has always been a part of our preparation for our whaling, as the skin for our boats and for our sustenance prepared for our seal oil and dried meat. The bearded seal is as much a part of our whaling culture as the whale. The decision to list our oogruk as endangered species will have a determent to our way of life as Iñupiaq.”
A copy of the letter can be found on the ASRC website: www.asrc.com.
Arctic Slope Regional Corporation is owned by and represents the business interests of the Arctic Slope Iñupiat. Since opening enrollment in 1989 to Alaska Natives born after 1971, the corporation’s shareholder base has nearly tripled, growing from the 3,700 original enrollees to around 11,000 today. Corporate headquarters are based in Barrow, Alaska, with administrative and subsidiary offices located in Anchorage and throughout the United States. ASRC, along with its family of companies, is the largest Alaskan-owned company, employing approximately 10,000 people worldwide. The company has five major business segments: petroleum refining and marketing, energy support services, construction, government services and resource development.
The Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (ICAS) is a Regional Alaska Native tribal government governed by the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, and a tribal constitution as amended, that represents and is selected by the Inupiat people of the Arctic Slope region. ICAS was established as an IRA in August 26, 1971. The mission of ICAS is to exercise its sovereign rights and powers for the benefit of tribal members, to conserve and retain tribal lands and resources including subsistence and environmental issues, to establish and carry-out justice systems including social services pursuant to Inupiat Tribal law and custom, and to increase the variety and quality of services provided to current tribal members and for our future generations. Economic development to generate sustainable funding sources for ICAS as a regional tribal government will be pursued to enhance the existing human resource services.
The North Slope Borough is committed to having healthy communities, economically, spiritually and culturally. The Borough works with the tribes, cities, corporations, schools, and businesses to support a strong culture, encourage families and employees to choose a healthy lifestyle, and sustain a vibrant economy. For more information: www.north-slope.org.