Thursday, November 14, 2013

Alaska Center for Environment v. Rue case brief

Alaska Center for Environment v. Rue case brief
95 P.3d 924

CASE SYNOPSIS: Plaintiff environmental groups sought review, before the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, of a decision by the Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game declining to list the Cook Inlet beluga whale as endangered under the Alaska Endangered Species Act, Alaska Stat. § 16.20.180-.210. The superior court upheld the commissioner's finding. The environmental groups appealed.

Five separate populations of whales inhabited the waters of Alaska, for a total of approximately 100,000 whales. The Cook Inlet beluga whale was genetically the most distinct. The environmental groups initially challenged the commissioner's finding that Cook Inlet beluga whales were not currently threatened with extinction. 

  • The supreme court found little merit to the claims. 
  • After examining all the information, the commissioner analyzed the four statutory factors specified under Alaska Stat. § 16.20.190(a)(1)-(4). 
  • Although the commissioner noted strong historical evidence suggesting that Cook Inlet beluga whales had been overharvested, the commissioner noted that federal law gave the National Marine Fisheries Service exclusive power to regulate the harvest of whales. 
  • The environmental groups also argued that the commissioner misconstrued the meaning of "species or subspecies." 
  • The supreme court found that the commissioner abused his discretion by concluding as a matter of law that the act permitted a subspecies to be found only when it was recognized to exist in the technical sense of the word. 
  • Nevertheless, the holding on the issue of subspecies status did not warrant reversal.

CONCLUSION: The supreme court affirmed the trial court's judgment.

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