Proposed Critical Habitat Designation for Arctic Ringed Seal

Testimony of Kati Capozzi
February 2, 2015 Anchorage, AK

Good evening. My name is Kati Capozzi and I am a projects coordinator at the Resource Development Council, known as RDC. We appreciate the opportunity to offer testimony regarding the proposed Critical Habitat designation for the Arctic ringed seal.

RDC is a statewide organization comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, forest products, tourism, and fisheries industries. RDC’s membership includes Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

RDC is on record of not supporting the original ‘threatened’ listing of the ringed seals due to their known abundant population. The ringed seal population continues to be strong, healthy, and faces no clear and present danger of suffering significant loss. The 100-year climate modeling practice based on what could happen to a species with regard to climate change has proven to be flawed and even recently resulted in the vacated listing of the bearded seal. This same flawed science was applied to the ringed seal and has resulted into an unprecedentedly vast proposed critical habitat designation.

Critical habitat is defined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service as: “a specific geographic area(s) that contains features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management and protection.” It is beyond unreasonable to designate what would be the U.S.’s largest critical habitat designation for a species that is experiencing a healthy and abundant population. Further, ringed seals and their habitats are well managed and protected by international agreements, conservation programs, and laws, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act. These and other measures are working, as is proven by their population. The listing of the animals would negatively impact an area of national significance because of its critical importance to domestic oil and gas production and development.

In addition, our fisheries, community development, and access to potential mineral resources will likely be impacted as well. These activities are not the cause of any purported decline in species abundance, but will be significantly and disproportionately impacted by this sweeping designation. In addition to this testimony, RDC will submit written comments by the March 31st deadline. Thank you for opportunity to testify today.