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It’s a well-known fact that Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin opposed listing the polar bear as an endangered species, but she’s not the biggest fan of another big, white, water-loving mammal: The beluga whale. Last Friday, the federal government chose to add Cook Inlet beluga whales to the endangered species list, despite efforts by Palin and others to keep that from happening.
“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.”
On Friday, Ms. Palin said the state had had “serious concerns about the low population of belugas in Cook Inlet for many years,” but she called the listing “premature.”
Like the polar bear, Palin opposed increased beluga whale protections partially because they could restrict or block planned oil and gas drilling projects in the area. The listing also endangers a bridge that would connect Anchorage to her hometown of Wasilla.
To be fair, most other prominent Alaska politicians (including Anchorage’s Democratic mayor and Senate candidate Mark Begich) also oppose the listing, saying it threatens Anchorage’s planned port expansion. But wildlife officials insist populations are dropping and in need of protection for recovery.
Either way, if you’re a large, white, seafaring mammal living in Alaska, you’re probably best off playing it safe and moving away for a while.