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Alaska to seek limits to Endangered Species Act

The Alaska Legislature is paying for a conference and public relations campaign to persuade Congress to limit the Endangered Species Act.

The Legislative Council is asking public relations firms to bid between now and Jan. 4 on the effort, which lawmakers appropriated $1.5 million to fund. The PR pros are to assemble a panel for an "Alaska Conference on Climate Change," after suggesting how the panel debate should be framed. They'll launch a public relations campaign "based on the conclusions reached by the conference panel," according to the Legislature's request for proposals.

The goal of the project is figuring out how to reverse what the Legislature calls negative economic effects from listings based on climate change, like the designation of the polar bear as a threatened species.

"The (PR firm's) main role will be taking information from the conference and other information gathering efforts and trying how to initiate a grass-roots movement, for lack of a better term. For going to Congress and asking for some reform changes," said Eddie Grasser, a legislative employee who is organizing the PR effort.

Rebecca Noblin, an Anchorage lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said it looks as if the Legislature is organizing a panel to reach a preordained conclusion. The state instead needs to be tackling the threat of climate change to Alaska, including the ongoing erosion of coastal communities and declines in species important for subsistence, she said. The Endangered Species Act just helps protect what's at risk, she said, and the conference is using it as a "bogeyman."

"The costs in Alaska of allowing climate change to progress unabated will dwarf any possible expenses that could accompany the (Endangered Species Act) listing of species," Noblin said.

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