Polar Bear “Threatened” Listing Comes with Strings Attached

Today the Department of the Interior announced it would list the polar bear as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, the decision came with administrative guidance — better known as strings attached. Despite its own admission that the polar bear is threatened by global warming, the Bush administration insists the ruling can’t be used to limit greenhouse gas emissions. And even though the Minerals Management Service says oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea come with a 33-51% chance of a major oil spill, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne claims the polar bear’s threatened status shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with fossil fuel drilling in their backyard.

So if the Bush administration won’t go far enough to protect the polar bear, what can we do? As the National Wildlife Federation’s Karla Raettig told CBS News today, Congress needs to pass the Climate Security Act:

You can read more National Wildlife Federation reaction to the ruling in our Newsroom.

As for the oil and gas leases, Grist’s Kate Sheppard reports, “On Wednesday afternoon, Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) filed the Polar Bear Seas Protection Act, a bill that would direct the National Research Council to study the impacts of climate change and of oil and gas exploration on species in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort seas.”

Learn more about global warming’s threats to wildlife and contact your senator in the National Wildlife Federation’s Climate Action Center!