Alaska gets more time to work against federal ice seal listing

February 8, 2011 

A ringed seal rests on the ice off Prudhoe Bay Nov. 13, 2006. Ringed seals maintain breathing holes in sea ice, then dig out snow lairs when the holes get covered by snow. The lairs provide shelter from polar bears and warmth from the cold for nursing pups.

BRENDAN P. KELLY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Alaska will use the next 45 days to make its case that two species of ice-dependent seals should not be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The National Marine Fisheries Service said Tuesday it would extend the comment period on its proposal to list ringed seals, the main prey of polar bears, and bearded seals. State officials object to the proposed listing.

Doug Vincent-Lang, endangered species coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the state has assembled data on seals and wanted time to analyze and present it to federal authorities.

The state has sued to overturn the listing of polar bears, claiming the designation of critical habitat could kill resource development projects important to Alaska. The state has maintained many of the same objections to listing seals that polar bears prey on.

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