WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today issued the following statement on Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne’s listing of the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act:

“I can’t express how extremely disappointed I am that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has chosen to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. I believe it is grossly premature, even with qualifications, to recommend this action based on highly variable climate change models and projected impacts of loss of summer sea ice on a currently healthy population.

Alaska’s and most nations’ polar bear stocks are at near modern record levels. A listing decision based purely on speculation about the future, lack of existing data, and in the absence of better research on bear prey species populations, sets a truly dangerous precedent for listings of a host of wildlife species. Such a decision threatens the integrity of the entire Act and could prove far worse for wildlife protection in the future.

Canada, which has the world’s largest population of polar bears, has chosen to not list the polar bear as threatened or endangered, but as a species of “special concern.” I believe our Service has erred in its determination because it is simply too soon to determine the impacts of loss of sea ice on the present population.

I am concerned that a threatened listing could have serious ramifications for the State of Alaska and the development of all of our natural resources. I certainly don’t believe a threatened listing should affect the construction of an Alaskan natural gas pipeline, or of any other oil and gas projects, since there is zero evidence that any such project has harmed bear populations in the least. Clearly we want to promote the use of clean-burning natural gas to reduce carbon emissions.

So, I also agree with the agency that subsistence hunting and oil and gas development in Alaska are not a threat to the polar bear and welcome their qualified listing decision. Clearly the Marine Mammal Protection Act offers more protection for polar bears than the ESA does and current regulations should remain in place for these activities. But the qualified listing still doesn’t alleviate my deep concern that outside interests will now try to use the courts to expand the impact of this decision in ways never intended when the ESA became law.

I am afraid that this decision opens a Pandora’s Box that the Administration will now be unable to close.”