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Polar Bears Are Protected? Apparently Not From Kempthorne’s Catch-22

Will listing as endangered really help the polar bear?I applaud the decision from the Department if Interior to include the polar bear on the endangered species list – even if there’s just a little bit of a “kicking and screaming the whole way” flavor to it.

With that said, the very headline of the press release from the DOI sounded ominously like a loophole:

Secretary Kempthorne Announces Decision to Protect Polar Bears under Endangered Species Act:
Rule will allow continuation of vital energy production in Alaska

And that’s just in the headline. It goes on from there to state that the decision will

…be accompanied by administrative guidance and a rule” (uh oh) “that defines the scope of impact my decision will have” (as in none?) “in order to protect the polar bear while limiting unintended harm to the society and economy of the United States” (take that all you big angry bears…)

While acknowledging that the polar bear is listed as a direct result of climate change, Kempthorne wanted

…to make it clear that this listing will not stop global climate change… That is why I am taking administrative and regulatory action to make certain the ESA (endangered species act) isn’t abused” (abused? Did you just have lunch with James Inhofe?) “…to make global warming polices.” (Read the full press release from the Department of Interior)

So the polar bear is listed under the Endangered Species Act – kinda. It’s listed because of it’s diminishing habitat from global warming, but through DOI “guidance” the protecting the bear under ESA does not extend to halting the very activity that further destroys the bear’s habitat and accelerates climate change.

Makes your head spin doesn’t it?

The Natural Resource Defense Council and Sierra Club have both weighed in with their own words of caution.

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Comments

  1. Why Do We Care If Polar Bears Become Extinct?
    This is not any sort of revelation: Polar bears declared a threatened species , but it does raise the question: Why do we care? By some estimates, 90% of all species that once existed are now extinct and new species are always taking their place. For the species that’s going to become extinct, for whatever reason, extinction is the end of it. However, for the species that remain, is the extinction of another species good or bad? When Europeans first colonized North America, there was an estimated five (5) billion Passenger Pigeons alive and well in North America. In 1914, they were extinct. Passenger Pigeons didn’t live in little groups, but huge flocks that required extraordinary quantities of hardwood forests for them to feed, breed and survive. Deforestation to build homes, create farmland and over hunting for cheap food decimated their population. The westward drive to grow the United States in the 1800s and early 1900s was incompatible with the needs of the Passenger Pigeon and they literally could not survive in the new North America being carved out by the U.S. economy. The interesting thing about the Passenger Pigeon was the impact its extinction had on another species—man. That impact was essentially none. Man continued to find ways to feed himself through agriculture and other technologies and the United States and its citizens continued to prosper from the early 20th century till today. Whether or not Polar Bears become extinct because of Global Climate Change or other reasons, we need to address the larger question of: Do we care and why? One of the ways a nation, its citizens and the global community can answer that question is addressed by John A. Warden III in Thinking Strategically About Global Climate Change. He asks some interesting biodiversity questions in his post to include How Many Species Is the Right Number and Which Ones?

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