On December 27, 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its intent to propose the polar bear as a "threatened" species under the federal Endangered Species Act, due to the meltdown of its sea-ice habitat caused by global warming.
This is a huge step forward in the fight to protect the polar bear, even if it did take a Greenpeace lawsuit to accomplish it. This action comes in response to a lawsuit filed last December under the federal Endangered Species Act by Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, and NRDC, who will work hard to ensure the 'proposal' becomes a reality.
What this means for the polar bear
Listing under the United States Endangered Species Act -- America's safety net for plants and animals on the brink of extinction -- would provide broad protection to polar bears, including 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. While this decision is an important step in the listing process, there is still a long way to go before the polar bear is officially listed as "threatened" or "endangered". There are multiple steps the government will have to take to implement a plan to protect the bear. Greenpeace will continue to apply pressure with our allies and supporters to ensure that the government does everything possible to reduce global warming pollution and protect the polar bear.
Polar bears live only in the Arctic and are totally dependent on the sea ice. A growing body of evidence shows that the Arctic ice is vanishing much faster than previously expected. The thick multiyear ice has been shrinking eight to 10 percent per decade, with some climate models predicting that the Arctic could be ice-free in summer as early as 2050.
In some polar regions, the sea ice season has shortened as much as three weeks, and scientists have discovered that the polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate - more than a million square miles - losing an area the size of Colorado in just the last year.
Read more about the polar bear.
Thanks to all of you who took action to protect the polar bear. It couldn't have happened without you! We hope that you will continue the fight until the listing is final, and the government takes real steps to stop the global warming that threatens this and many other species.