Environmental groups sue Bush administration to force polar bear protection

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Today the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the Bush administration for missing its legal deadline for issuing a final decision on whether to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming. Faced with overwhelming scientific evidence, the Bush administration continues illegally to delay listing.

See our earlier posts:
January 8, 2008: Fish and Wildlife Service suspicious delay of decision on polar bear threatened status

On January 7 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a politically suspicious delay in making a court-ordered ruling on “threatened” status protection for the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act. The administration could refuse to give the polar bear threatened status only by denying the science of global warming. Are administration officials politicizing the agency’s decision and its timing? One year ago, on January 8, 2007, we explained how Interior Secretary Kempthorne was misrepresenting the analysis of his own agency’s scientists of the threat to the polar bear from projected disappearance of sea ice habitat due to global warming.

January 9, 2007: Polar bear decision “a rare case of science actually triumphing over politics”

January 8, 2007: Interior Secretary misrepresented agency report deeming polar bears threatened

December 29, 2006: Polar Bears, Pt 2: “Habitat loss and inadequate regulatory mechanisms to address sea ice recession”

December 28, 2006: Interior Dept. proposal to list polar bear as threatened due to loss of sea ice

Excerpt from the March 10 news release:

“The Bush administration seems intent on slamming shut the narrow window of opportunity we have to save polar bears,” said Kassie Siegel, climate program director at the Center for Biological Diversity and lead author of the 2005 petition seeking the Endangered Species Act listing. “We simply will not sit back and passively allow the administration to condemn polar bears to extinction.”

Polar bears live only in the Arctic and are totally dependent on the sea ice for all of their essential needs. The rapid warming of the Arctic and melting of the sea ice pose an overwhelming threat to the polar bear, which could become the first mammal to lose 100 percent of its habitat to global warming.

The groups filed their lawsuit today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit seeks a court order compelling the administration to issue the final decision on polar bear protection immediately.

“The Endangered Species Act is absolutely unambiguous: the Fish and Wildlife Service was required to make a final decision months ago….

Since the petition to protect polar bears under the Endangered Species Act was first filed in February 2005, new science paints a dim picture of the polar bear’s future. In September, the U.S. Geological Survey predicted that two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population would likely be extinct by 2050, including all polar bears within the United States. Several leading scientists now predict the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer as early as 2012.

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