Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is going to court to block protections for the diminishing population of Cook Inlet beluga whales off of her state. In an announcement from her office, Palin has again taken the lead in attacks on environmental protection policies.
There are fewer than 400 of the whales left in the inlet but Palin wants to delay any additional efforts to save them. Critics accuse her of caving into fishing and other business interests in an effort to let the whales disappear to make any restrictions unnecessary.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) listed these whales as endangered last year, warning 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.”. NOAA observed that “The Cook Inlet beluga population declined nearly 50 percent between 1994 and 1998 . . . 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.”
Palin has long been viewed as one of the most hostile politicians to the environment in the country. As she continues to court the hard-right for her next run, it appears that her antagonism toward the environment will remain a central part of that appeal.
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