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AP: Polar bear to be a protected species

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  • George Lessard
    Polar bear to be a protected species Associated Press May 14, 2008 (AP) -- The Interior Department declared the polar bear a threatened species Wednesday,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 14, 2008
      Polar bear to be a protected species

      Associated Press
      May 14, 2008

      (AP) -- The Interior Department declared the polar bear a threatened
      species Wednesday, saying it must be protected because of the decline in
      Arctic sea ice from global warming.

      Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne cited dramatic declines in sea ice over
      the last three decades and projections of continued losses. These
      declines, he told a news conference, mean the polar bear is a species
      likely to be in danger of extinction in the near future.

      Kempthorne also said, though, that it would be "inappropriate" to use the
      protection of the bear to reduce greenhouse gases, or to broadly address
      climate change.

      Reflecting views recently expressed by President Bush, Kempthorne said the
      Endangered Species Act was "never meant to regulate global climate
      change."

      He said the decision to list the bear includes administrative actions
      aimed at limiting the impact of the decision on energy development and
      other climate related activities.

      "This listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice
      from melting," said Kempthorne. He said he had consulted with the White
      House on the decision, but "at no time was there ever a suggestion that
      this was not my decision."

      Kempthorne cited as support for his decision conclusions by the
      department's scientists that sea ice loss will likely result in two-thirds
      of the polar bears disappearing by mid-century.

      Notwithstanding the secretary's disclaimers, this is the first time the
      Endangered Species Act has been used to protect a species threatened by
      the impacts of global warming. There has been concern within the business
      community that such an action could have far-reaching impact and could be
      used to regulate carbon dioxide.

      Kempthorne proposed 15 months ago to investigate whether the polar bear
      should be declared threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

      That triggered a year of studies into the threats facing the bear and its
      survival prospects at a time when scientists predict a continuing warming
      and loss of Arctic sea ice. The Arctic sea ice serves as a primary habitat
      for the bear and is critical to its survival, scientists say.

      "The science is absolutely clear that polar bear needs protection under
      the Endangered Species Act," said Andrew Wetzler, director of the
      endangered species program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

      A decision had been expected early this year, but the Interior Department
      said it needed more time to work out many of the details, prompting
      criticism from members of Congress and environmentalists.
      Environmentalists filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing a decision and a
      federal court on April 29 set a May 15 deadline for a decision.
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