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Polar Bears finally on the endangered list


Cross-posted on Reuters

After months of delay following the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's recommendation to place the polar bear on the endangered list (a delay that included Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne's failure to appear at a Senate hearing and a final order from a federal judge), the government finally listed the polar bear as threatened today:
“While the legal standards under the ESA [Endangered Species Act] compel me to list the polar bear as threatened, I want to make clear that this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting," Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne says in a statement.

"Any real solution requires action by all major economies for it to be effective. That is why I am taking administrative and regulatory action to make certain the ESA isn’t abused to make global warming policies.”
The move requires the government to protect the species and to take measures to help the bears survive, an important consideration and the likely reason for the delay, as this is the first time a species has been listed due to climate change.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmentalist groups that sued the government to force the decision has said they will fight to for regulations on emissions that they cite as the causal relationship to the melting ice that is harming the bears.

"This is a profound acknowledgment of the threat not only to polar bears but to the entire Arctic ecosystem," said Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It is going to provide important protection for polar bear populations."

Dirk Kempthorne's response made it clear that he did not want to see this decision lead to a broader effort to curtail global warming.

"The decision includes guidelines to make sure the Endangered Species Act isn't used as a 'back door' way to regulate greenhouse gases," said Kempthorne. "The stipulations ensure the protection of the bear while allowing us to continue to develop our natural resources in the Arctic region in an environmentally sound way,'' he said.

The listing of the polar bears as threatened included several provisions that prevent the ruling from being used to restrict greenhouse gas emissions has drawn criticism from both sides of the climate change debate and will likely lead to further litigation in the future.

LABELS: CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, CLIMATE CHANGE, DIRK KEMPTHORNE, ENDANGERED SPECIES, ENVIRONMENT, GLOBAL WARMING, INTERIOR DEPARTMENT, NRDC, POLAR BEAR, POLITICS, REUTERS, SIERRA CLUB, SCIENCE, USFWS