JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A federal judge in Alaska has thrown out a plan designating more than 187,000 square miles as habitat for threatened polar bears.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline, in a written order dated Thursday, said the designation was too extensive and presented “a disconnect between the twin goals of protecting a cherished resource and allowing for growth and much needed economic development.” He sent the matter back to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to correct “substantive and procedural deficiencies.”
The federal government declared the polar bear threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2008, citing melting sea ice. The move made the polar bear the first species to be designated as threatened under the act because of global warming.
A designation of critical habitat was required as part of a recovery plan, and more than 187,000 square miles in and near the Beaufort and Chukchi seas _ an area larger than California _ was set aside.
A coalition of Alaska Native groups, oil and gas interests and the state of Alaska sued, calling the designation an overreach.
Beistline, in his order, said that Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision didn’t comply with a requirement under the law that critical habitat include physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species. The agency didn’t show that two of the land units had all the required features, the judge said.
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell hailed the decision.
“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 our state’s rights,” he said in a statement. “I am pleased the State of Alaska was able to fight off this concerted effort to kill jobs and economic development in Alaska.”
Bruce Woods, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman in Alaska, declined comment, saying the agency had just learned of the decision Friday afternoon and was still reviewing it.
Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty said protecting polar bears “is a priority for us all, but such measures must carefully comply with the requirements of the statute.”
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Beistline made the right decision, calling the bear populations “abundant and healthy.”
“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,” she said in a statement.
Follow Becky Bohrer on Twitter at
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Skin Cancer in Arizona: Stats, facts and new immunotherapy drugs making strides
- Caring Crisis: Rising tide In Alzheimer’s disease leads to shortage of caregivers
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments
- Here’s why Gaydos went tankless with his water heater
- Bocce ball and basketball: How you can help Arizona's Special Olympics athletes
- Tips on building the best wine room in Arizona
- Avoid the nightmare: 6 tips to choose a great contractor
- Breast cancer: Improved testing and treatments means more survivors
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain