Activist in Polar Bear Costume Peacefully Protests

Feature story - January 31, 2008
A Greenpeace activist was arrested today for peacefully protesting the Bush Administration’s delay in issuing a final Endangered Species Act listing for the polar bear due to global warming. The activist, dressed in a polar bear suit, initiated a vigil by sitting in a paddleboat in a park pond in front of the Department of Interior.

While the Department of Interior is dragging their feet on protecting polar bears, they are moving full steam ahead on plans to drill for oil in prime polar bear habitat. New oil leases are opening up in the Chukchi Sea and oil companies are lining up quickly to obtain licenses to drill. A fifth of the remaining Arctic polar bears depend on Chukchi Sea ice in their hunt for food.

In December of 2005, Greenpeace and two other conservation groups sued the Bush administration when it missed its first legal deadline to respond to the petition for an endangered species listing. On December 27, 2006, the Service announced its proposal to list the species as "threatened" and had one year to make a final listing decision. The legal deadline for doing so was January 9, 2008.

Every week it seems there is new evidence that the sea ice is melting and that the polar bear's habitat is disappearing. The U.S. Geological Survey released a report this past September predicting that if current warming projections continue, two-thirds of the world's polar bears will likely be extinct by 2050, including all of the polar bears in Alaska. With a timeline like that, it is hard to understand how the polar bears aren't already protected.

Why Listing is So Important?

If the polar bears were listed under the United States Endangered Species Act -- America's safety net for plants and animals on the brink of extinction - they would be granted a broad range of protection. The protection would include a requirement that United States federal agencies ensure that any action carried out, authorized, or funded by the United States government will not "jeopardize the continued existence" of polar bears, or adversely modify their critical habitat.