Alaska Atty Gen outlines endangered species fight

Posted: Thursday, January 28, 2010

FAIRBANKS - Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan has outlined plans for ramping up the state's fight against expanded use of endangered species laws.

Sullivan told the House Finance Committee in Juneau on Tuesday that he will approach other states to tell them about Alaska's plan, which includes a request for $1 million next year to pay for a full-time attorney to focus on the Endangered Species Act and for more contract help from specialized lawyers.

Sullivan said he's drafting letters to attorneys general in every state, outlining the Alaska Department of Law's efforts to gain a greater say in federal wildlife protection.

Last week, Gov. Sean Parnell said in his State of the State address that the federal government has intruded into areas of state legal responsibility.

In recent years, petitions have been filed by environmental groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, seeking the listing of species, including ice seals and the Pacific walrus, under the act.

Last year, the Interior Department declared the polar bear threatened, saying loss of sea ice posed a threat to its habitat. The state has sued to overturn the listing.

Sullivan generally said new listings require Alaska companies to consult heavily with the federal government before investing in areas affected by an endangered species designation.

"We believe that greatly increases the cost of doing business in the state," he said.

Sullivan said the state also would look to share more analysis and biological data with the federal government and, when species make it onto the list, find a larger role for Alaska in shaping recovery plans.

Organizations usually file petitions or lawsuits because the state is doing a poor job of protecting many species, said Rebecca Noblin, who directs Alaska offices for the Center for Biological Diversity.

"Alaska is wasting tax dollars on a losing battle against federal protections for species," she said.

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