Alaska lawmakers may drop Endangered Species Act fight

The Anchorage Daily NewsApril 6, 2010 

JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature is about to abandon a planned public relations effort aimed at fighting the Endangered Species Act. Lawmakers want to put the $1.5 million toward a new office building for themselves in Anchorage, but there's a push to use it instead for an independent study of how the proposed Pebble Mine development could affect Bristol Bay.

The Legislature planned to put on a conference on the Endangered Species Act and use the findings in a public relations campaign. The campaign would be aimed at creating a "grass-roots" call for limits on the Endangered Species Act, including how it's applied to Alaska's polar bears and beluga whales.

Lawmakers who favored the conference said the federal designation of polar bears as threatened and Cook Inlet beluga whales as endangered could lead to economic damage in the state. But enthusiasm for the effort fizzled over the last several weeks, legislators said, with some saying it could create a black eye for Alaska if it came across as though politicians were directing the science.

The Legislature's lawyers opined that legislators don't have authority to wage a national public relations campaign anyway, only the governor does. "That could be disputed. But it got members of the Legislature a little shaky in the knees," said Rep. John Harris, a Valdez Republican.

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