On the same day that EPA nominee Lisa Jackson declared that politics should not trump science in government, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced that her state would be filing a lawsuit to prevent beluga whales in the Cook Inlet from being protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Due to the decline in the fragile population of fewer than 400 remaining beluga whales in the Inlet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) listed these whales as endangered last year. NOAA warned that, “The Cook Inlet beluga population declined nearly 50 percent between 1994 and 1998,” and that “the Cook Inlet beluga population [was] at 375 for both 2007 and 2008. Estimates have varied from a high of 653 belugas in 1994 to a low of 278 belugas in 2005.”
In its findings, NOAA also noted that, “The recovery of the Cook Inlet whales is potentially hindered by strandings; continued development within and along upper Cook Inlet and the cumulative effects on important beluga habitat; oil and gas exploration, development, and production; industrial activities that discharge or accidentally spill pollutants; disease; and predation by killer whales.”
Palin informed the federal government on Wednesday that Alaska will be going to court to protest this finding. Among other reasons, Palin argues that protecting the Cook Inlet belugas would limit development of the city of Anchorage, which is on the Cook Inlet. As you can see from the Aerial Survey map from 2002 below, the belugas are focused in the Anchorage area of the Cook Inlet.