by Editor on February 9, 2010

Alaska Launches A Public Relations War Against Polar Bears. Let’s Just Say NO!

It’s time to say NO TO ALASKA.

On February 4, a committee of the Alaska State Legislature approved a budget of $1.5 Million to launch a nation-wide public-relations war against polar bears and the US Endangered Species Act. Alaska’s government views polar bears as being an obstacle to oil and gas exploration and exploitation along the state’s Arctic coastline. Although federal protections recently extended to polar bears do not prohibit the development of natural resources in polar bear habitat, they do require permission for those activities.

But the Alaska legislature apparently would prefer that the oil companies’ lives not be made more complicated by concerns for polar bears and other wildlife. The state’s Legislative Council is currently shopping for just the right public relations firm to lead the charge against the bears and in favor of weakening the Endangered Species Act.

Polar bears were listed as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 2008 after the US Fish & Wildlife Service determined that climate change in the Arctic was severely reducing the amount of sea ice on which the bears hunt seals and other marine mammals.

In late 2009, the federal government proposed the designation of over 200,000 square miles of Alaskan land and water as “critical habitat” for polar bears. Some of this critical habitat also contains potential reserves of oil and natural gas.

The Endangered Species Act prohibits actions that adversely affect critical habitat for a listed species. Commercial activities within critical habitat are not banned, but they do require government regulation and oversight.

In announcing the critical habitat proposal, US Interior Department Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Tom Strickland, said, “Proposing critical habitat for this iconic species is one step in the right direction to help this species stave off extinction, recognizing that the greatest threat to the polar bear is the melting of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change. As we move forward with a comprehensive energy and climate strategy, we will continue to work and protect the polar bear and its fragile environment.”

The federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed by Congress in 1973 under President Richard Nixon, is perhaps the most successful piece of conservation/environmental legislation of all time. The Act currently protects 1,351 Endangered and Threatened plant and animal species and their habitats in the US, and 1,925 species worldwide.

Let’s not let the State of Alaska get away unopposed with trying to weaken the ESA and shove polar bears out of the way.

What can we do? Well, you can help counter their anti-polar-bear campaign by joining our NO TO ALASKA campaign.

And, why will NO TO ALASKA work? Well, oil and natural gas production are not the only things that keep the Alaskan economy running. The tourism and convention business comprises a very large portion of the Alaskan economy, so the state has good reason care what people think. And not just American people either—people from all over the world who might be thinking of vacationing in Alaska or attending a convention there. If you send them an e-mail, they have no choice but to pay attention.

In fact, some Alaska legislators are already worried about the potential public fallout from the Legislative Council’s actions. The Anchorage Daily News quoted Senate Majority Leader Johnny Ellis as saying, “We should be very mindful there’s great potential for PR damage that could come from this if we let politicians do the science instead of scientists do the science.”

So, by all means, let’s tell the State of Alaska to let scientists do the science.

To be a NO TO ALASKA leader, all you have to do is send a brief e-mail to Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, and a copy of the same e-mail to the Alaska Travel Industry Association. (Contact info below).

Write your own e-mail, or copy the following text to use as a starting point:

Dear Governor Parnell,

I am contacting you to let you know that I have joined the NO TO ALASKA campaign in order to express my deep concern over Alaska’s efforts to weaken Endangered Species Act protections for polar bears. I am especially troubled by the legislature’s plan to launch a nationwide public-relations effort to undermine federal polar bear protection as well as the ESA itself. Until your state discontinues these threats against America’s vulnerable wildlife, I will not be considering Alaska as a vacation destination.


Contact Alaska Governor Sean Parnell.

And you can e-mail the Alaska Travel Industry Association at

Thanks. And please send an e-mail to share your thoughts about this issue.

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