December 10, 2007
Ms. Kaja Brix
Assistant Regional Administrator
Protected Resources Division, Alaska Region, NMFS
PO Box 21668
Juneau, AK 99802
Attn: Ellen Sebastian
Re: Initiation of Status Review for the Lynn Canal Stock of Pacific Herring
Dear Ms. Brix:
Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on the Status Review of the Lynn Canal Pacific herring under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The Resource Development Council (RDC) is a statewide private economic development organization with the mission to grow Alaska’s economy through responsible resource development. RDC’s membership encompasses all of Alaska’s basic industries oil and gas, tourism, fisheries, mining and timber. Our membership also includes construction companies, labor organizations, Native corporations, local communities and a wide variety of industry support firms.
Upon conclusion of the Status Review, NMFS will determine whether to list the Lynn Canal stock of Pacific herring on the ESA. RDC opposes that listing, and strongly questions the notion of the Lynn Canal stock being a Distinct Population Segment (DPS) separate from herring in the Gulf of Alaska and the northern Pacific Ocean. As indicated in the Federal Register notice, Pacific herring stocks in Southeast Alaska have not been examined in detail for population discreteness. However, studies conducted on herring stocks in the north Pacific, e.g. Puget Sound, have concluded the stocks do not constitute a DPS as defined under the ESA. Similar studies must be conducted in Lynn Canal prior to a listing decision.
When making DPS determinations, the discreteness of the population in question and the significance of the population to the remainder of the species should be considered. The petitioner has acknowledged that few data are available for the Lynn Canal stock and that it may not be genetically distinct from herring throughout the Gulf of Alaska. As was proven with the Cherry Point stock, the Lynn Canal stock must be analyzed in relation to several other stocks in Southeast Alaska and cannot be deemed ‘significant’ until then. Before a decision can be made to list the Lynn Canal stock under the ESA, the relationship between it and other herring stocks in Southeast Alaska must be fully understood.
RDC is concerned about the impact an ESA listing and subsequent critical habitat designation could have on development projects in and around Lynn Canal. The Kensington Mine, poised to provide millions of tax dollars to the City and Borough of Juneau, as well as the State of Alaska, would be directly impacted. Given its location in Berner’s Bay, shipping and transportation to and from the mine would be hampered, and even the most basic mining operations would prove to be incredibly difficult. Also affected in the area would be the Kensington Mine dock facility owned by Goldbelt Inc., and the existing Greens Creek Mine on Admiralty Island. All of these projects have been planned and permitted while working with local, state, and federal government agencies to ensure the region is protected and preserved for the future. RDC surmises the Petitioners may be attempting to list the Lynn Canal stock under the ESA to control land use decisions, rather than because the stock is threatened. The ESA is not meant to control development activities, but rather to preserve species that are truly threatened or endangered.
Anytime a species is listed under the ESA, that decision must be based on sound science and recognize existing conservation efforts. An ESA listing should be a last resort, and not a foregone conclusion. Given the lack of information on distinct populations of herring in Southeast Alaska, a listing under the ESA is not warranted at this time.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important issue.
Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.