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State Files Suit, Supports Challenges to Federal Decision to List Bearded Seals as Endangered

JUNEAU, Alaska – The State of Alaska welcomes the news that the North Slope Borough and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association have filed litigation challenging the decision to list the bearded seal as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  On June 21, 2013, the State also filed a lawsuit challenging this decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Bearded seals currently enjoy healthy and abundant populations numbering in the hundreds of thousands.  Despite this fact, the NMFS listed the bearded seal based solely on speculative threats associated with climate change 100 years into the future. This decision is the latest in a series of federal actions listing healthy species based on predicted climate threats far into the future.   

“These decisions are made with a disregard for both the law and the limits of current scientific knowledge,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.  “Indeed, under this policy, any species could be listed as threatened if one makes enough unverifiable and speculative predictions about what might occur 50 to 100 years from now, or beyond. In order to list a species, the ESA requires the federal government to show a connection between the scientific data and the decision to list. That connection is absent in this case. This is not only bad policy, it is bad science and a violation of the law. If the bearded seal decision becomes the new standard, where will the ability of the federal government to erroneously list species end?”

The State of Alaska is committed to the sustainable management of its wildlife. Bearded seals are thriving under current management programs, and are fully protected by existing laws, such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The NMFS decision to list bearded seals as threatened under the ESA will add virtually no extra protections or conservation benefits to the species, and instead will impose additional regulatory costs and burdens on the State, its residents, and those parties seeking to engage in responsible development of state resources.

 

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