Alaska sues feds over bearded and ringed seal critical habitat designation area that is larger than state of Texas

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The State of Alaska filed a complaint Wednesday against the National Marine Fisheries Service, asking a U.S. District Court to vacate the critical habitat designations for ringed and bearded seals, some of the most common mammals in Alaska marine environments.

The area designated for the two seal species is much larger than the state of Texas and includes approximately 324,105 square miles of coastal waters along the North Slope and the adjacent Outer Continental Shelf.

Ringed seal.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said that science giving way to politics.

“Washington D.C. continues to see our state as the nation’s sole wildlife preserve, to the detriment of the opportunities we were promised at statehood to be able to build a robust economy,” Dunleavy said. “Nearly the entire Alaska coastline and vast offshore areas are designated as ‘critical’ for one species or another, ranging from whales to sea ducks to seals and sea lions. No other state is burdened by the same level of federal overreach created by unnecessarily large critical habitat designations. If other states had the same level of federal designations, the law would be rewritten.”

Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor said the designation is not based on reason. “These ice seals are important to the State, and actually are among the most common marine mammals found in the Arctic. However, to designate virtually all of the seals’ range within the U.S. as ‘indispensable’ to the recovery of the species is an abuse of federal power,” said Taylor. “These designations of vast areas, beyond what could ever reasonably be considered ‘critical’ to a species’ recovery, was not intended by the drafters of the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, though, designations such as these have all too often been the norm for endangered species in Alaska.”

Under the Endangered Species Act only those specific areas that are “indispensable” to the conservation of the species can be considered “critical habitat.”

There is no accurate population count at this time, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, but it is estimated that there are probably over 500,000 bearded seals worldwide. The Alaska stock is the only stock of bearded seals in U.S. waters. There are at least 250,000 ringed seals in Alaska waters, and 6-7 million worldwide. They are a prey for polar bears.

Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game Doug Vincent-Lang refuted the species’ listings. “I struggle to believe that a species with a healthy, robust population of millions can be considered threatened with extinction.” said Vincent-Lang. “The best available scientific information indicates ringed seals are resilient and adjust well to varying conditions across their enormous range and are likely to continue. ESA listings should be reserved for imperiled species.”

The complaint lays out how:

  • NMFS failed to articulate how these geographic areas meet the definition of critical habitat.
  • NMFS contradicts the very purpose of designating critical habitat; its final rule asserts that no project changes or other critical habitat protections will result from the designation of critical habitat.
  • NMFS’ designation shows that the critical habitat designations were not necessary for the animals’ recovery and that the designations are not essential to their conservation.

Read the complaint Alaska vs. National Marine Fisheries Service here.

45 COMMENTS

  1. Congress passes the Marine Mammal Act to save marine animals collectively which are under questionable (if any) threat.
    Polar bear and orca numbers (the top of the food chain) soar. They eat up the seals and sea lions.
    The managers blame the public thousands of miles away for the destruction of the habitat because said people refuse to forgo warm, safe vehicles to ride in crime-ridden buses and trains that offer crappy schedules that don’t fit life’s demands.
    The sun sets. It rises again the next morning. Another day arrives……..

    • Reggie; Wildlife are always dismissed as being in the way of human prioritized progress especially the uneducated and the one’s that shoot from the hip 😉

      • 3rd Generation Ignorant Alaskan,
        .
        That was a great way to completely sidestep and dance around the issue here. So you are saying that no level of abuse, or federal overreach, is possible when it comes to supposedly endangered wildlife? And you are further claiming, with no logical argument, evidence or reason, that such abuse and overreach is not happening here?
        .
        I am getting a strong whiff of yet another kneejerk boot-licker and power establishment sycophant here.

        • Jeff; I guess I mis-worded my post.
          I think we should take extra steps to protect fellow beings that share the planet with people. Wouldn’t be an ugly planet if there was just people and no Animals?

  2. Again just ignore this and let the state run its business. If the feds come here to try to enforce this arrest all of them for not allowing states rights. Does this ruling make it illegal for the natives to hunt them also.

    • No it does not. Natives have almost zero impact on population numbers. More of them die of old age than what the natives harvest. States have the right to make their own laws but those laws cannot be so much different than a federal law or they become invalid.

      • I say the heck with the feds and their overreach. We need to tell them to go pound sand. I don’t care what the feds give us we would be better off without their rules and thuggery.

        • You are absolutely correct, Mark, and I agree with you 100%.
          .
          If even 5% of the population, or just a small handful of state governors, told the federal government to “shove it”, and ignored their ever-growing mandates and coercion, the tyranny emanating from Washington DC would collapse like a cheap card table in short order, with vastly beneficial effects for all except the parasites and sociopaths in the ruling class.

      • “…….Natives have almost zero impact on population numbers………”
        If course they don’t, even though they’re the only people legally allowed to kill seals. Nor is it the historically high population of polar bears, who also kill seals.
        Clearly, obviously, and undeniably, the problem is YOU burning fossil fuels to keep your fanny warm and fed. The debate is over. Science has spoken.
        So stop it. Immediately.

          • Before colonization an Alaskan native wouldn’t be allowed to randomly relocate to another tribes grounds without fear of being butchered. Why has this changed? Now Greg you can at will go wherever you like… thank a colonialist.

  3. Let’s blow up another Nordstream pipeline! That will definitely “seal” the fate of all the seals in the ocean. I havent heard any complaints of the effects of massive escapement of raw gas polluting the source of what these poor mammals thrive on. Have you Joey? What do you say we ask his rapidly blinking press puppet? She’s looks nervous when someone asks a Question she knows she has to lie about….which is most of them. LOL

  4. Dear Federal Governmint: Please do not renege on our 1959 Statehood Act. We would like to have the entirety of the state to develop as needed like the otherv49 states had full opportunity to do. The act was not asking for babysitting services 24/7 interminably forever was it? Why does someone believe they are better at caring for our lands than we , Alaskans are at caring for our entire state. We would like the real answer in English please.

  5. The worldwide Pacific Walrus population has been estimated to be 260,000. Research biologists have recently discovered a single walrus haulout with up to 200,000 walruses ‘https://alaskapublic.org/2023/02/15/a-year-after-russia-invaded-ukraine-a-walrus-discovery-is-caught-up-in-geopolitics/ How is it possible with climate change killing all marine mammals that the population of Pacific Walrus could almost double overnight?

  6. Seals don’t matter. Natural resource independence matters. Maybe if we got rid of all the seals there would be no need for a habitat and we could actually drill instead of buy our oil from the Chinese. Maybe ship all the seals to Martha’s Vineyard. I’m sure that would get the message across.

  7. NMFS has spent over 100 years studying the Bering Sea Fur Seal and Steller Sea Lion while numbers declined and continue to decline, in the meantime millions of tons of Halibut are dredged up in trawl nets as bycatch and tossed, sounds like a money problem more then specie concern.

  8. They’re not stopping in their quest to shut down Alaska and create 100% Fed Gov dependence. Tourism, resource extraction, mining, fishing…nope, carbon credits. Lisa is lending assistance to this quest.

  9. The Feds suck.

    Wednesday they had a meeting in Quinhagak to get testimony on taking control of the States portion of the Kanaktok River.

    It’s soley a test to see if an advisory board can use the Government to Government negotiation to take over control of of designated properties.

    Pure BS. Another lawsuit coming that will be same as the Fed’s power play on the lower Kuskokwim River.

  10. If we keep using federal money like it grows on trees I think we can expect them to have a say how the state is ran.

  11. Well gosh, let’s just wait until a species is critically endangered before we protect it. We know that profit is more important than anything.

    And let’s just keep carving up Alaska until it looks like one of the overpopulated states in the eastern or southern U.S.

    C’mon, Alaska, think forward.

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