Politics Versus Responsible Science

In yet another case of political agendas trumping responsible science the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration delayed listing Alaska’s Cook Inlet Beluga Whales on the endangered species list for six more months.  My initial thought was that this must be due to homeland security due to some super classified intelligence only Tom Clancy could make up and Dick Cheney only dreams of.  However my initial impression has yet to be validated what I do know is that listing these species as endangered is a no brainer.

There are 302 Beluga Whales in the Cook Inlet population down from 1300 or so years ago. NOAA now faces an Oct. 20 listing deadline. If the agency decides to list, it also likely will take an additional year to designate critical habitat.

The proposed listing as well as critical habitat designation is being watched closely by the state and others concerned over the affect it could have on projects such as the expansion of the Anchorage port and plans to develop coal fields across the inlet. Gov. Sarah Palin recently said she's opposed to the listing because it could cause serious long-term damage to the area's economy.

Sound familiar? 

If this reminds you of the right whale ship strike rule delay that’s dragged out for over a year you’re not alone. Read through the public comments and you’ll learn this isn’t the first time economic concerns trump wildlife protection.  Rather than mediate between opposing parties for a solution the Bush Administration keeps controversial decisions like this one in an administrative purgatory. A state of regulatory suspended animation where all reason ceases to exist.  Even the Marine Mammal Commission, the overseeing body to all US marine mammal policies wrote a letter to current NMFS Administrator James Balsinger expressing the commissions concerns for the delayed listing.

Don't believe politics drives science ?  Check out recent news from PEER, Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility about right whale ship strikes.


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