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Native groups announce they will sue over polar bear decision

January 17th, 2011 | Alaska Newspapers Staff Print this article   Email this article  

A coalition of Native groups, led by Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the North Slope Borough, have announced they will sue the Department of the Interior over its designation of more than 187,000 square miles as critical habitat for polar bears in the Arctic.

"This is a poor attempt to legislate climate change through regulation," said Rex Rock, Sr., President and CEO of ASRC. "The Department has recognized that the designation will not have any impact on the primary threat to polar bears - the loss of sea-ice habitat - but it could cripple our communities."

The letter was sent Monday and signed by Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Bering Straits Native Corporation, NANA Regional Corporation and Calista Corporation, as well as the North Slope Borough, the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation, Kuukpik Corporation, Ukpeabvik Iñupiat Corporation, Olgoonik Corporation, Inc., Cully Corporation and Tikigaq Corporation.

Federal law requires a 60-day notification before a lawsuit is officially filed. It is the coalition's hope that the Secretary of the Interior will address the potential plaintiffs' concerns before that time is up.

A release from ASRC states they believe the financial hit to the state and region could be in the "billions" and lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs.

"The Critical Habitat Designation does not get at the problem of melting sea ice, so it won't help the polar bear," said North Slope Borough Mayor Edward S. Itta. "It will only restrict normal community growth in our villages and threaten access to our traditional subsistence hunting areas. As a solution, this completely misses the mark."

The State of Alaska filed a similar 60-day notice in late December over its intention to sue the federal government.


Alaska Newspapers Staff can be reached at, or by phone at (800) 770-9830

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