The polar bear should be immediately listed as a 'threatened' species, due to the meltdown of its sea-ice habitat caused by global warming.
The lawsuit seeks a court order to compel the administration to
issue the final decision immediately. Greenpeace activists returned
to the US Department of Interior yesterday, designating the
building as a 'critical habitat for oil lobbyists'.
Highlighting the repeated delays and deception with the listing
process, the Department of Interior has used the time to press
ahead with plans to lease 29 million acres of prime polar bear
habitat for oil drilling.
A fifth of the remaining Arctic polar bears depend on Chukchi
Sea ice in their hunt for food, yet new oil leases are opening up
in the area and oil companies are lining up to obtain licences to
View a slideshow of Greenpeace activists at the
Department of Interior.
Rising Arctic temperatures are reducing both the extent and
duration of the sea ice, forcing polar bears to spend more time on
land away from vital food supplies. The disappearing ice is
particularly hard on breeding females, who must feed both
themselves and their cubs.
In some areas, polar bear birth rates have dropped by up to 15%
in the last decade.
Some climate models predict that the Arctic could be completely
ice-free in summer by 2030. While, the US Geological Survey issued
a report in September 2007 warning that, if current global warming
projections continue, two-thirds of the world's polar bears will
likely be extinct by 2050.
Drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea will also subject polar
bears to the threat of oil spills and other industrial
disturbances. But, it doesn't stop there - once the oil is burned,
it will exacerbate global warming, and that in turn will accelerate
the melting of the Arctic sea ice.
With grim statistics and timelines like this, it's hard to
understand why polar bears aren't already being protected. Being
listed as a "threatened" species under the US' Endangered Species
Act (ESA) will ensure that any action carried out, authorised or
funded by the United States government does not jeopardise polar
bears' continued existence or adversely modify their critical
So, forming a coalition with the Centre for Biological Diversity
and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), we initiated the
ESA process for the polar bear back in February 2005, calling for
it to be listed under the Act due to global warming. It was time to
throw the polar bears a desperately needed lifeline.
Under the ESA, a listing process of no longer than two years
must be followed. Together with the Center for Biological Diversity
and the NRDC, we sued the Bush Administration in December 2005 when
it missed the first deadline in this process. In February 2006, in
response to our lawsuit, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced
that the protection of polar bears "may be warranted," and began a
A settlement agreement in the case committed the Service to make
the second of three required findings in the listing process by
December 2007. At this time, the Service announced its proposal to
list the species as threatened and had one year to make the final
To date, the US government has received more than 670,000
messages in support of protecting the polar bear, including letters
from eminent polar bear experts, climate scientists and US Congress
members - a record number of comments in support of an Endangered
Species Act listing.
The legal deadline to make the final decision to list the polar
bear was January 9, 2008. It is now two months overdue. That's why
we're going back to the courtroom. There's no more time for delay -
the US must list the polar bear as a threatened species and take
those steps to ensure that it is fully protected.
The US needs to act now - cancelling oil-drilling leases in the
Chukchi Sea and immediately implementing plans for deep cuts in US
global warming pollution.
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