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Parnell Administration Fights Size of Federally Designated Critical Habitat for Polar Bears


December 30, 2009, Juneau, Alaska - The State of Alaska has filed strong objections to the Department of Interior, Fish & Wildlife Service's designation of a huge swath of area as critical habitat for polar bears.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposes that 200,541 square miles of Alaska land and adjacent ocean should be set aside as critical habitat for polar bears. This area is larger than California and covers nearly the entire range of polar bears on American areas. 

"By law, a critical habitat designation should balance the concern for the species with consideration for economic impacts," said Attorney General Dan Sullivan. "That has not been done here. Moreover, the designation should cover only those areas actually necessary for special protection. Instead, the service has included areas lacking any special features and has ignored the protections already in place for polar bears under the Marine Mammal Protection Act."

"Proposing the entire range of a species as critical habitat is inconsistent with the facts and with the service's own previous decisions on Alaska species such as the Steller's eider and Northern sea otter," said Denby Lloyd, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Attorney General Sullivan also emphasized the importance of the state's role in providing formal comments on the designation of critical habitat and urged the federal agency "to take into account the state's very legitimate concerns."

"The state will continue to closely monitor how the service implements critical habitat for polar bears," he said.

Governor Parnell noted that the overly broad designation is a job killer for Alaskans and other Americans:

"While the service has yet to provide an economic study of the impacts from its proposed decision, major oil and gas exploration and development efforts will, at best, be delayed by this designation. The service's overly broad critical habitat designation simply means more projects must jump through more regulatory hoops. Neither Alaska nor our nation can afford these job killing moves, nor can we remain so dependent on other nations for our energy supplies."

The full text of the comments submitted by the state is available at:
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