Did Gov. Palin misrepresent views of Alaska scientists on threat to polar bear?


“Alaska’s marine mammal scientists agreed last year with federal researchers who concluded polar bears are threatened with extinction because of a shrinking ice cap,” the Anchorage Daily News reported on May 25.  “The state’s in-house dispute seems to refute later statements by Gov. Sarah Palin that a ‘comprehensive review’ of the federal science by state wildlife officials found no reason to support an endangered-species listing for the northern bears.”

In a 5 January 2008 op-ed in the New York Times Gov. Palin said, in justifying her decision to oppose listing the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act:  “My decision is based on a comprehensive review by state wildlife officials of scientific information from a broad range of climate, ice and polar bear experts.”

The Anchorage Daily News article, “E-mail reveals state dispute over polar bear listing,” said:

A newly released e-mail from last fall shows that the state’s own biologists were at odds with the Palin administration, which has consistently opposed any new federal protections for polar bears under the Endangered Species Act….The e-mail was released…to a University of Alaska scientist who had filed a public records request seeking information on the state’s polar bear decision-making.  Rick Steiner, the university Marine Advisory Program professor who obtained the memo, said it undermines the Palin administration’s scientific defense as well as its claims to being an open government….

“Even the petroleum-loving Bush administration couldn’t find a way around the science on this issue,” Steiner said. “This perpetual denial of environmental harm posture is what gives Alaska a very bad image nationally and globally.”

In its final response to Steiner this month, the state generally withheld all substantive in-house comments on the bears, saying these were private policy discussions among executive officials, a category exempt from release under state public records laws.

Also see our posts:
August 30: Alaska Gov. Palin appears to deny global warming is due to human activity
29 August 2008: Gov. Sarah Palin on polar bears, climate change, and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
9 January 2007: Polar bear decision “a rare case of science actually triumphing over politics”

This entry was posted in Science-Policy Interaction. Bookmark the permalink.