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Alaska Oil & Gas Ass'n v. Salazar

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20013
Nos. 3:11-cv-0025-RRB et al., (D. Alaska, 01/11/2013) (Beistline, J.)

A district court vacated FWS' final rule designating approximately 187,157 square miles in Alaska and adjacent territorial and U.S. waters as critical habitat for the polar bear, ruling that the designation "went too far and was too extensive." Although the final rule is valid in many respects, the rule violates the APA's arbitrary and capricious standard. The FWS cannot designate a large swath of land in northern Alaska as critical habitat based entirely on one essential feature that is located in approximately one percent of the entire area set aside. In addition, the FWS failed to follow applicable ESA procedure by not providing the state with adequate justification for the state's comments not incorporated into the final rule. The court noted that while there is no question that the purpose behind the FWS' designation is admirable, the critical habitat designation presents a disconnect between the twin goals of protecting a cherished resource and allowing for growth and much needed economic development.