State seeks to quantify cost of endangered species restrictions

August 26, 2011 

The state of Alaska wants to study -- and quantify -- the economic costs of Endangered Species Act listings.

In a solicitation for proposals, the commerce department said there has been a "constant expansion" of use of the act since the 1970s and that potential or actual listings in Alaska have stopped, slowed or threatened development. It said implementation of the act has had "substantial" economic effects but that the study will seek to determine the size of those resulting from designations under the ESA.

There is a $350,000 budget for the project.

The notice, issued Thursday, said the study's author should seek to have the results published in a "respected, peer-reviewed journal." They also would be discussed in public forums.

Responses are due by Sept. 19. The contract would run through the end of the fiscal year, with the state having the option to extend it.

Wanetta Ayers, director of the department's Division of Economic Development, said Friday that it is incumbent upon the state to understand the barriers stemming from ESA designations, and to be able to articulate those. She said a goal of the study is to try to determine how designations affect business decisions and what the costs for state or local government to be involved are.

The state has been fighting the federal government over protections extended to or proposed for several species. One of the concerns is that ESA designations affect huge swaths of land, making it more difficult to develop oil and gas resources in those areas. On Friday, the state said it would appeal a court decision defending the listing of the polar bear as threatened.

Outrage over the 2008 polar bear listing prompted lawmakers in 2009 to consider bankrolling a more than $1 million public relations effort to reverse the decision. Instead, they solicited proposals for a conference assessing what the Endangered Species Act would cost Alaska and whether a PR campaign would be useful. That effort faltered.

Money set aside for the effort was reappropriated.

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