Wolf Song of Alaska News

Senators in Alaska Take Vote on Polar Bears

STATUS: Lawmakers fear calling polar bears a "threatened" species.

The Associated Press / Anchorage Daily News / April 2, 2007

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Senate is on record opposing the federal listing of polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and is asking that all states do so as well.

The resolution passed the Senate by a vote of 12-5 on Friday, the same day it was introduced. A similar resolution is pending in the House.

Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, said he was concerned that the proposed listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not only lacks the proper scientific backing but could be used to halt subsistence activities and resource development in the state.

"One just has to look back at what happened with stellar sea lions not too many years ago to know the tumult that puts across our state, and this listing will do the same thing with polar bears," Wilken said.

The Senate resolution echoes concerns expressed by the administrations of Gov. Sarah Palin and former Gov. Frank Murkowski over the proposed listing.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's review comes amid concerns that global warming is melting sea ice where the animals live. In December, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne proposed listing them as threatened.

If polar bears were listed as a threatened species, all federal agencies would have to ensure that anything they authorize that might affect polar bears would not jeopardize their survival or the sea ice where they live. That could include oil and gas exploration, commercial shipping or even releases of toxic contaminants or climate-affecting pollution.

A decision is due by January 2008. The Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comments until April 9. Greenland and Norway have the most polar bears, while a quarter of them live mainly in Alaska and travel to Canada and Russia.

The measures are SR 6 and HR 6.


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