ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Leaders of the business community in Alaska say they have concerns about a proposed protected habitat for beluga whales in Cook Inlet.
They say the proposal may crimp maritime commerce and resource-development projects along the coast of the waterway.
U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, told the Anchorage Daily News the proposal announced by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was "yet another attempt to halt resource production and development in Alaska and a step toward making the whole state a national park for the enjoyment of outsiders."
The federal regulators, however, said the plan to designate 3,000 square miles of the inlet as critical habitat was the best means of protecting the endangered species, which the Daily News said Wednesday had declined from around 1,300 animals to 321 this year.
The habitat covers much of the upper reaches of Cook Inlet, which is also the access for commerce between Anchorage and the open sea.
NOAA said the restrictions could require some changes in energy projects on the drawing board but would not likely result in their cancellations, the newspaper reported.