Kill the Whales

It’s a bad time to be an endangered species in Alaska.

The federal government on Friday moved to put beluga whales that live in Alaska’s Cook Inlet on the endangered species list. This, despite the best efforts of Gov. Sarah Palin, who fought them tooth and nail.

Here’s the nut, from today’s New York Times:

The relatively small, whitish whales, sometimes visible from downtown Anchorage, declined by almost 50 percent in the late 1990s, and federal scientists say they have not rebounded despite a series of protections, including a halt to subsistence hunting by Alaska Natives. …

As with the polar bear, Ms. Palin’s administration opposed the beluga listing in part because of its potential to restrict coastal and offshore oil and gas development. The beluga listing could also affect other projects, including the expansion of the Port of Anchorage and a proposed bridge over Knik Arm that would connect Anchorage to the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and Ms. Palin’s hometown, Wasilla.

“I am especially concerned,” the governor said in a written statement in August 2007, when her administration submitted documents to fight the listing, “that an unnecessary federal listing and designation of critical habitat would do serious long-term damage to the vibrant economy of the Cook Inlet area.”

At least she’s clear about her priorities. Build the bridge over Knik Arm, beluga be damned.

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