Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska applauded a U.S. District court decision that vacates the designation of 187,000-square miles of Alaska’s North Slope as critical habitat for polar bears by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
“The court made the right decision today. The government clearly overreached in designating such a large swath of Alaska — an area larger than the size of California — as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)” for polar bears, she said.
According to Murkowski, the court found that the FWS failed to show that the North Slope contains the physical and biological features essential to polar bear conservation, and that the agency failed to follow ESA procedures requiring it to provide the state of Alaska with adequate justification for not incorporating the state’s comments into the final rule.
The court vacated the FWS rule and sent it back to the agency for further consideration.
The Alaska Oil and Gas Association and the state of Alaska challenged the rule in 2011, arguing that the designation of more than 187,000 square miles of Arctic coastal area as critical habitat for polar bears was excessive and unnecessary.
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell also commended the court for its ruling. “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s attempt to classify massive sections of resource-rich North Slope lands as critical habitat is the latest in a long string of examples of the federal government encroaching on states’ rights.”
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