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Lingle raises questions about federal monk seal petition

    Courtesy NOAA This 7-week-old female Hawaiian monk seal pup was the first monk seal born at Alan Davis Beach and one of four born on Oahu this year.

Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said Tuesday a federal proposal to designate areas on and around the main Hawaiian islands as critical habitat for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal is insensitive and an example of "government over-reach."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently proposed designating areas on and around Hawaii’s most developed islands — and not just in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands — as protected areas for the species. It was in response to a petition filed by environmental groups in 2008. 

Lingle released a statement saying that she supports protecting endangered species, but she wants the government to postpone action until the "economic and social consequences to the people are fully understood and addressed." The former two-term Republican governor announced last month she’s running for U.S. Senate. 

The proposed designation would cover 4,787 square miles — nearly 75 percent of the size of the state, she said. Lingle is concerned about the "potential adverse impacts this rule could have on such important activities as clean energy projects (such as wave energy, ocean-thermal energy and seawater air conditioning), aquaculture, fishing, military activities, harbor improvements and near-shore construction (including airports modernization and highway reconstruction." 

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register, which Lingle said isn’t widely read. "They gave the public only 60 days to respond to a proposed rule that could last for over 50 years," she said. "Only after receiving letters from elected officials who were alerted by concerned fishermen, native Hawaiian groups and community activists did NOAA agree to re-open the public comment period." 

The comment period on the plan has been reopened for 60 days from Nov. 7 to Jan. 6. 

"NOAA Fisheries appreciates Ms. Lingle bringing attention to the topic of critical habitat designation and looks forward to receiving comments from anyone wishing to do," NOAA said in a statement Tuesday.


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