Environment

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U.S. Stalls on Defining Polar Bears as ‘Threatened’

January 13, 2008 11:20 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has suspended its final decision on whether to classify polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The delay has drawn criticism from conservationists.

30-Second Summary

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After missing a Jan. 7 decision deadline, FWS Director Dale Hall told reporters that the organization needed another 30 days to evaluate a set of new reports from the U.S. Geological Survey.

These reports conclude that two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population may go extinct by 2050.

According to environmental groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council, much of the danger stems from a reduction in the Arctic sea ice that is the bears’ hunting ground.

This and other threats prompted the Center for Biological Diversity to file the initial Endangered Species petition back in 2005.

According to the Center, “Listing the polar bear guarantees federal agencies will be obligated to ensure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out will not jeopardize the polar bears' continued existence.”

However, Alaska State Governor Sarah Palin told The New York Times that putting them on the endangered species list is too drastic a measure. The state would suffer socially and economically. She said, “Alaska is home to a healthy population of polar bears. We intend to keep it that way.”

Further complicating matters is the intended lease sale of 29.7 million acres in the Chukchi Sea off northwestern Alaska. The sale could open the area to oil and gas exploration, a development that Betsey Beardsley of the Alaska Wilderness League thinks could be detrimental to more than just polar bears.

"There's no telling what impact that would have to marine life," Beardsley told Reuters.

Headline Link: ‘U.S. Delays Polar Bear Listing Decision’

Background: Comment on the proposal

Opinions & Analysis: Would endangered status threaten Alaska?

Related Topics: Alaskan lease sale also delayed

Reference Material: The proposal

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