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Judge Vacates Polar Bear Habitat Designation

By | January 11, 2013

A federal judge in Alaska has set aside a plan designating more than 187,000 square miles as habitat for threatened polar bears.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said in a written order that the purpose behind the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designation was admirable, because it is important to protect the polar bear. But he said such protection must be done correctly, and found the current designation went too far and was “too extensive.”

Beistline sent the matter back to the agency to correct what he called “substantive and procedural deficiencies.”

A coalition of Alaska Native groups, the state and oil and gas interests sued over the rule, which they saw as an overreach. The federal government argued, in part, that the designation provided conservation benefits for the species.

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