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State Objects to Polar Bear Critical Habitat Proposal, Calls Cost Estimate Flawed

July 9, 2010, Anchorage, Alaska - The State of Alaska has released the results of an independent economic analysis showing that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) dramatically underestimated the potential impact of their polar bear critical habitat designation on Alaska.

"We will continue to fight improper listings and critical habitat designations with sound science and cost data," Governor Parnell said. "Experience shows that projects within critical habitat face additional costs, delays, and litigation, making it more difficult for Alaska to develop our economy. This economic analysis will help to set the record straight on what this proposal will actually cost Alaska."

The USFWS has proposed designating an area of 187,166 square miles as critical habitat for polar bears, including areas that account for almost half of Alaska's oil production. While the USFWS estimated the total impact to be $669,000 over 29 years, an independent review commissioned by the State of Alaska and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation estimated that costs may be in the hundreds of millions in just the next 15 years.

The report found that expected delays in the initiation or expansion of oil and gas exploration projects, reductions in oil production, and restrictions on construction projects could cost local governments, native corporations, and the State of Alaska hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic benefit.

The state also questions whether the critical habitat designation will benefit polar bears, as required under the Endangered Species Act, when the USFWS acknowledges that the designation is not expected to result in additional significant conservation measures for the species.

In addition to requesting that critical habitat not be designated at this time, the State of Alaska asked for exclusions for certain activities and areas that are vital to state and national interests.

These comments are in addition to the comments previously submitted by the State of Alaska on the biological aspects of the critical habitat proposal. The state has objected to, and is litigating, the decision to list polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

A copy of Governor Parnell's letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is available at:

http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell_media/documents/gov_ltrtoKenSalazar.pdf

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