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Delegation Meets With NOAA and NMFS Administrators

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Don Young, Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Senator Mark Begich met this morning with Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Eric Schwaab, the Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.  This meeting was called to discuss a variety of issues under NOAA's purview that will affect Alaska, including the proposed Critical Habitat for the Cook Inlet beluga whale, the upcoming biological opinion on the Steller sea lion, the petitions to list the ice seals, and marine spatial planning.  Alaska's Congressional delegation served as a united front throughout the meeting, as they discussed the impact that various NOAA decisions could have on Alaska's economy and its people.

"I was pleased that Dr. Lubchenco agreed to meet with all of us today," said Rep. Young.  "I believe the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is being misused and the result is a great disservice to Alaska, its people, and its economy.  I made it clear to the Administrator that it is important for the agency to have basic scientific information prior to any listing or critical habitat designation.  Unfortunately, many decisions made by the agency under the ESA are done with little or no scientific information and that needs to change.  I thank everyone for taking the time to meet this morning, and I look forward to more open discussions about Alaskan issues with Dr. Lubchenco in the future."

"Alaskans are concerned about the growing number of endangered species listings, petitions to list and lawsuits," said Senator Murkowski.  "In this economic climate, the fear is that all this activity will hurt the economy of Alaska. I share that fear. Everyone wants to protect the environment, our wildlife and marine mammals, but the Endangered Species Act is being used as an instrument to stifle economic growth and development. I encouraged NOAA and the administration to use rigorous science in its decisions, and to be more aware of the potential economic harm its determinations can cause.  This is not an issue just in Alaska; I've heard these same concerns throughout the country.  ESA overreach could lead to a serious backlash against the act." 

"During the meeting, Dr. Lubchenco clearly heard the concerns shared by the entire Alaska delegation," said Senator Begich.  "I stressed to Dr. Lubchenco the importance of using proper science and weighing economic factors when considering ESA regulations and ocean zoning proposals.  As NOAA continues to act, they must listen to Alaska's communities and respect the unique circumstances that exist in each inlet and cove across our state."

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