Resource Development Council

RDC Action Alert:
Polar Bear Critical Habitat Designations &
Economic Analysis Public Hearing

Read RDC's comment letter

Public comment deadline was July 6, 2010


In October 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published in the Federal Register a Proposed Rule to Designate Critical Habitat for the polar bear. Recently, the Service re-opened the public comment period and informed the public of the availability of a Draft Economic Analysis (DEA) on the proposed designation of critical habitat. The new public comment period allows all interested parties an opportunity to provide additional comment on the Proposed Rule and the associated DEA. The Service will accept comments on the proposal and DEA through July 6.

The proposed designations are unprecedented because of their massive scope. The Proposed Rule calls for the largest critical habitat area ever proposed, overlaying 200,500 square miles, an area larger than 48 of the 50 U.S. states. This area encompasses nationally-significant areas of oil and gas production and future production. Yet the associated DEA estimates the economic impact from such designations at only $669,000 over a 29-year period.

Action requested:

The Service will hold two public hearings to seek comment on the Proposed Rule and DEA. RDC urges its members to attend and present brief testimony at these hearings, opposing the overly broad and excessive critical habitat designations.

The hearings were held:
June 15: Anchorage Loussac Library, Wilda Marsten Theater, 7-10 p.m.
June 17: Barrow Inupiat Heritage Center, Multipurpose Center, 7-10 p.m.

How to comment:

Comments may be submitted by one of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R7-ES-2009-0042.

U.S. Mail:

Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS-R7-ES-2009-0042
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222
Arlington, VA 22203

Points to consider in your comments or verbal testimony:

  • The Service’s economic analysis of the proposed designations severely underestimates economic impacts at only $669,000 over 29 years, failing to realistically consider the costs associated with project delays and modifications, as well as impacts from the potential loss of energy production, and secondary impacts to the regional and state economy from lost production and development opportunities.
  • The Service should revise and reissue its fundamentally-flawed economic analysis to more accurately reflect the real economic threat posed by the Proposed Rule.
  • The proposed critical habitat designations for polar bears is unwarranted. Polar bears and their habitat are well managed and protected by numerous international agreements, regulatory mechanisms, and laws, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Extensive legal authorities make the polar bear one of the most protected species in the world, and provide more than adequate basis for addressing realistic threats.
  • Historically, there has been virtually no impact on polar bears from oil and gas activities in Alaska. In fact, the sustained and continuing growth of polar bear population for the past 40 years has coincided with the development of the oil and gas industry on the North Slope.
  • The service should exclude from critical habitat current and proposed oil and gas exploration, development and production areas, including transportation corridors, as well as all active and proposed lease sale areas. The benefits of oil and gas development far outweigh the benefits of including areas of oil and gas activity in critical habitat. Oil and gas activity has not in the past and is unlikely in the future to pose a danger to the polar bear or its habitat.
  • Exclusions should also be granted for local community lands, including the North Slope and Northwest Arctic Boroughs, as well as Alaska Native corporation lands, proposed mining sites and the 1002 area of ANWR.
  • The proposed designations are overly broad and excessive, and should be substantially reduced to those areas where special management is necessary and absolutely essential to the conservation needs of polar bears.
  • The Proposed Rule is unprecedented as it applies to a species that continues to occupy its entire range at healthy population levels. In Alaska polar bears are abundant and are near historic population highs. Worldwide, the population over the past 40 years has more then doubled.
  • Polar bears are not experiencing problems under any of the factors set forth in the ESA for the listing of a species, other than the speculative projections associated climate change and sea ice loss. Key uncertainties in both the emission scenarios and the climate response models make it impossible to draw reliable conclusions so as to support such broad and sweeping critical habitat designations.
  • The ESA listing of polar bears and subsequent designation of critical habitat are likely to be used as a referendum on climate change. Any threat – perceived or real – to critical habitat, will likely lead to third-party lawsuits to block new energy development in or adjacent to critical habitat, resulting in potential implications to domestic energy production and the economy with no added benefit to the polar bears.

Public comment deadline was July 6, 2010

Read RDC's comment letter

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