PR and Polar Bears

This February the Alaska Legislative Council announced they would use state funding for a public relations effort. The issue at hand is the Endangered Species Act and the listing of two animal inhabitants of Alaska, the polar bear and beluga whale ,as endangered species.

The state will now fund a 1.5 million dollar conference and public relations effort.  The public relations effort will be two fold, providing damage control as the state fights the Endangered Species Act and a conference to discuss the scientific findings behind listing polar bears and beluga whales as endangered. According to The Anchorage Daily News, the public relations effort is “aimed at creating a “grass-roots” call for limits on the Endangered Species Act.”

Alaskan laymakers have discussed the negative repercussions of fighting the Endagered Species Act, suggesting that the ordeal could cause a “black eye” for Alaska. While many state representatives don’t seem to quite agree on the issue, no one stopped the push for the public relations effort, however some remained concerned about the cost.

One issue of debate is that polar bears and beluga whales being listed as endangered could be negative for Alaska economy. As polar bears and beluga whale are given more protection, oil and gas development could be impacted. On the other side, Alaska may be seen as caring more about money than the protection of endangered species.

Currently the Legislative Council has received bids from public relations firms that are willing to participate in the conference to discuss the issue. Conclusions and findings from the conference will then be utilized in the public relations effort.

Eddie Grasser, a legislative staffer organizing the effort, stressed the importance of inviting members from both sides of the debate to the conference. “If you don’t do that you will have a black eye,” Grasser said.

What will come of this issue remains to be determined, however it is clear that the state may have some negative press to deal with. As with any issue people are passionate about, seeking information about the situation will be critical. Implementing public relations as a way to allow successful communication is key.

– Kyla Morris

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