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Press Release

Attorney General Sullivan Presses Forward on ESA Issues

April 6, 2010

Anchorage, Alaska - Attorney General Dan Sullivan, who recently was named co-chair of a new working group of attorneys general focusing on issues involving the Endangered Species Act (ESA), assured Alaska legislators Monday that those issues remain on the front burner in his office.

"A core priority of the Department of Law is helping create and defend a legal framework in our state that promotes opportunities for economic growth and prosperity," Sullivan wrote to lawmakers. "Our work on ESA issues - both through the regulatory process and in litigation - is an important element of realizing that priority."

The attorney general said he was encouraged by the Legislature's willingness to fund an additional attorney for ESA issues.

"Many of you have expressed concerns about the use of the ESA as a means to lock up Alaska's resources and stall economic activity," he wrote.  "This challenge is growing with the advent of climate-based listing petitions, in which individuals or groups request the federal government to list species under the ESA on the theory that because climate change will affect a species' habitat, the species is endangered, even though its population is currently healthy.

"ESA listings lead to extensive regulation of economic activity.  In Alaska, the regulatory impact has been compounded by expansive critical habitat designations made without meaningful consultation with our state. As you know, regulatory decisions pursuant to the ESA are subject to challenge in the courts, which creates delay, expense, and uncertainty, jeopardizing economic growth."

In response to an appeal by Sullivan, the National Association of Attorneys General recently established an Endangered Species Act Working Group, which he will co-chair with New Mexico Attorney General Gary King. This group is a forum for discussion, ideas, and action to address the complex issues raised by the ESA.

Attorney General Sullivan discussed his outlook on the ESA today at a forum organized by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski at the Dena'ina Center. Among ESA-related actions taken by the state, the Department of Law is challenging the listing of the polar bear as threatened, and the Department of Fish and Game is objecting to the proposed critical habitat designation for Cook Inlet beluga whales.

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