Polar Bear Threatened Listing Weakened by Contradictions

The Department of Interior announced last week that it would list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, because their sea ice habitat is melting away.

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 cant be used to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
By denying a direct link between the sources of global warming pollution and the loss of the polar bears sea ice habitat, and by denying that the polar bear will be protected from oil and gas development, theyre willing to sit by and let the polar bear go extinct, said John Kostyack, executive director of wildlife conservation and global warming with the National Wildlife Federation.

And even though the Minerals Management Service says oil and gas leases in Alaskas Chukchi Sea come with a 33 to 51 percent chance of a major oil spill, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne claims the polar bears threatened status shouldnt be allowed to interfere with fossil fuel drilling in their backyard.

So if the Bush administration wont go far enough to protect the polar bear, what can we do? As the National Wildlife Federations Karla Raettig told CBS News, Congress needs to pass the Climate Security Act 
As for the oil and gas leases, Grists Kate Sheppard reports, 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 Alaskas 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.

Published: May 21, 2008