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Alaska needs to base policy on science

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, May 04, 2007

Let's hear about polar bears from scientists rather than politicians. I'd like to hear scientists, rather than politicians, reassure me that polar bears are not being affected by climate change. It has been disappointing to hear legislators, the governor and the commissioner of Fish and Game shooting from the hip, trying to undercut recent scientific findings.

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One of Alaska's big challenges in coming years, if we want to continue fishing, mining, or drilling, is going to be reassuring ourselves and others that we can responsibly balance environmental exploitation and quality. We need credibility to do that. We need to support and rely on good science as a common base of information for debating policy and for demonstrating our commitment to environmental protection.

At the moment, Alaska is losing ground. We have a new administration and legislators are downplaying the effects on polar bears with little reference to new scientific findings and growing worldwide concerns about climate change. Our Habitat Division is part of the Department of Natural Resources, an agency charged with promoting development rather than looking out for fish and wildlife interests. And we have little scientific assessment or monitoring of controversial wolf-control efforts.

These are increasingly undercutting our credibility. I urge legislators and the Palin administration to strengthen the role of science, rather than attacking it, in addressing issues like wolf control, oil and gas development, the Kensington Mine and the Pebble proposal.

Steve Behnke

Juneau



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