White House Calls for Threatened Listing for Polar Bears

In what many environmentalists consider an about-face on both endangered species and global warming, the Bush administration last week announced that it would recommend listing America’s polar bears as threatened under the nation’s Endangered Species Act.

"We are making this proposal because a scientific review of the species by the Fish and Wildlife service found that populations may be threatened by receding sea ice, which polar bears use as a platform for many activities essential to their life cycle, including hunting for their main prey, Arctic seals," said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne at a news conference.

A coalition of environmental groups had sued the administration in order to gain protections for Alaska’s dwindling population of polar bears. The decision kicks off a 12-month public comment period and scientific review to finally decide if the nation’s polar bears require threatened status. Environmentalists are optimistic that such a listing could put pressure on the Bush Administration to consider measures regulating emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal global warming gas, which is generally thought responsible for the melting of Arctic sea ice where the great white bears roam.

"This is a victory for the polar bear and all wildlife threatened by global warming," says Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity, which joined Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council in suing the federal government last year to increase protection for polar bears. "This is a watershed decision in the way this country addresses global warming. There is still time to save polar bears but we must reduce greenhouse gas pollution immediately."

Source: Center For Biological Diversity

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