June 12, 2010

Alaska challenges the Beluga whale listing

By Alaska challenges the Beluga whale listing

Author:  Damien M. Schiff

Last Friday, the State of Alaska filed suit in federal court in D.C. against the National Marine Fisheries Service, challenging the agency's 2008 Endangered Species Act listing for the Cook Inlet distinct population segment of Beluga whale.

The complaint raises several claims, including attacks on the Service's science and its conclusion that the whale's population is continuing to decline.  The lawsuit also challenges the agency's failure to give adequate attention and provide an adequate response to the state's comments on the proposed listing. 

One overlap between this case and Alaska's lawsuit challenging the ESA polar bear listing, is that in both cases the species already enjoy significant protections under state and federal laws.  (For commentary on the polar bear litigation, see, e.g., here, here, and here).  The ESA allows the Service to take into account existing protections for a species when deciding whether to list the species.  See 16 U.S.C. § 1533(a)(1)(D).  Oftentimes, however, the Service significantly discounts state conservation efforts.  This lawsuit is a clear attempt to reverse that practice.

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