6 Feb 2009, 11:59pm
Bears Endangered Specious
by admin

Palin and lawmakers were right to dispute beluga, bear listings

by Matt Cronin, Opinion, Anchorage Daily News, Feb. 6, 2009 [here]

Gov. Sarah Palin and the Legislature were criticized for opposing the Endangered Species Act listings of beluga whales in Cook Inlet and polar bears. Mike Nizich and Gov. Palin eloquently justified the state’s positions. Species considered under the Endangered Species Act are not necessarily in danger of extinction. Polar bears have increased worldwide over the last 40 years and most populations have not declined. Numbers of belugas have increased over the last six years. The bears and belugas were listed because of predictive models that a scientist would treat as hypotheses in need of testing, not conclusions.

Some Endangered Species Act species are not even species, because the act includes subspecies and populations (DPS), so almost any population can be listed. The belugas were declared genetically distinct to support the DPS designations but this is scientifically simplistic.

Maintaining belugas in Cook Inlet is one management objective, as are fishing, oil, minerals, marine and air traffic, and forestry. Because Endangered Species Act listings are not definitive and can negatively impact citizens, the governor’s opposition is legitimate and I believe reflects her concern for multiple-use management and her responsibility to the state of Alaska.

Scientists who don’t support ESA listings have been accused of non-objectivity and bogus science (Daily News, Jan. 15, 2009; May 9, 2008). This smacks of Soviet Lysenkoism, in which science was dictated by government policy and dissent was not allowed. In science, debate and discussion should be encouraged, not prevented.

Note: Dr. Matthew Cronin PhD. is Research Associate Professor of Animal Genetics, School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks. He is also a member of the Alaska Board of Forestry. Three of his research papers are currently posted at the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Wildlife Sciences [here].



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