U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today applauded a ruling by a federal district court vacating 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.
"The court made the right decision today," Murkowski said. "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. The only real impact of the designation would have been to make life more difficult for the residents of North Slope communities, and make any kind of economic development more difficult or even impossible."
The court found that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 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 Endangered Species Act 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 rule and sent it back to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife for reconsideration.
"The fact is that our polar bear populations are abundant and healthy, and occupy their entire historic range," Murkowski said.