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Palin urges government to not list Beluga whales as endangered

August 10, 2007

Juneau, Alaska - Governor Sarah Palin has told the federal government that the state is extremely concerned about a proposal to list Cook Inlet beluga whales as an endangered species.

Governor Sarah Palin has told the federal government that the state is extremely concerned about a proposal to list Cook Inlet beluga whales as an endangered species.

From a governor Sarah Palin press release:

August 7, 2007, Juneau, Alaska - Governor Sarah Palin has told the federal government that the state is extremely concerned about a proposal to list Cook Inlet beluga whales as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act, and urged the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) not to list the species.

"Our scientists feel confident that it would be unwarranted to list Cook Inlet belugas now," Governor Palin said. "Seven years ago, NMFS determined that these whales weren't endangered, and since then, we've actually seen the beginnings of an increase in their population. We are all doing everything we can to help protect these important marine mammals."

On Friday, the state submitted 95 pages of data and formal comments to NMFS on the proposed listing, pointing out that the Cook Inlet stock of belugas is recovering from an "unsustainable harvest" in the early 1990s. In addition, state scientists point out that, in 2000, NMFS ruled that listing the Cook Inlet belugas as endangered was not warranted because hunting was the only factor causing their decline, and hunting has since been effectively regulated through cooperative agreements with Alaska Native organizations. Federal and state scientists predicted in 2001 that it would take 5 to 7 years before a recovery could be expected. Early indications are that the beluga population is now on the rise.

Governor Palin has asked NMFS to work with the state and other scientists to finalize and implement a conservation plan for the Cook Inlet stock of belugas. Adopting this plan will do more good for their long-term survival than an unwarranted listing of them as endangered, she said.

"I am especially concerned that an unnecessary federal listing and designation of critical habitat would do serious long-term damage to the vibrant economy of the Cook Inlet area," Palin said. "Hundreds of thousands of people who live in this area know that we are taking excellent care of the environment and habitat there. For example, annual salmon runs in recent years are higher than they were when the beluga population was larger, in the 1970s. This wouldn't be possible without effective conservation efforts."

A listing would require that all actions that federal agencies permit, regulate, or fund be scrutinized through a special consultation and permitting process. This would add delay and costs to all activities in the region and would limit NMFS' ability to fund additional beluga research.

The state's comments on the proposed listing were filed Friday, August 3rd, the deadline for public comments. NMFS has one year to issue a final decision. If the belugas are listed as endangered, the Service would then decide whether to list all or part of the Cook Inlet region as critical habitat.

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