Murkowski, Sullivan Respond to Damaging Designation of ‘Critical Habitat’ in Alaska

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, today slammed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for announcing it is designating critical habitat in U.S. waters off the coast of Alaska for the Beringia “distinct population segment” (DPS) of bearded seals and Arctic ringed seals. The designated area extends from St. Matthews to the Canadian border in the Beaufort Sea, which is roughly equivalent in size to Texas.

“NOAA’s decision to designate more than 260,000 square miles as ‘critical habitat’ for seals goes beyond federal overreach. It is an abuse of power, inappropriately leveraging the Endangered Species Act. The domino effect this could have on fisheries, shipping, arctic infrastructure, responsible resource development, and more – is quite serious for Alaska and all who live, work, and raise families here,” said Sen. Murkowski. “I stand firmly with the many Alaskans, including the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the North Slope Borough, who know this immense designation of critical habitat is simply unjustifiable and will create more harm than benefit for Arctic communities and our state as a whole. Alaskans are good stewards of our environment, including the important marine species that dwell in our waters and along our coasts. We do not need – and will not accept – harmful layers of unilaterally-imposed bureaucracy that largely serve to hinder our ability to grow, subsist, and adapt in the Arctic.”

“A broad coalition of Alaskans—Alaska Native organizations, resource development groups, our fishermen, individual Alaskans, Alaska’s congressional delegation, and the state—have fought against these unnecessary and overreaching ESA listings since they were issued back in 2012 and 2014,” said Sen. Sullivan. “NOAA’s designation of critical habitat for both species allows these crushing federal regulatory burdens to take effect across broad swaths of the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, further locking up our lands, waters and resources. As I’ve done throughout my entire career, I will continue to fight against this federal overreach, and the deep state federal agencies and far-left radical environmentalists, who have no regard for the well-being of Alaskans and work together relentlessly to stifle our ability to have an economy, and support our families and communities.”

NOAA previously proposed critical habitat for the ringed seal in 2014 and the bearded seal in 2021. The agency openly acknowledges that the proposed designation would likely result in restrictions on oil and gas activities, marine transportation, port development, defense-related activities, and commercial fishing in state and federal waters.