Feds Deny Polar Bears Endangered Status

Bears will remain listed as threatened, left without stronger protections

12-23-2010 // Aislinn Maestas
Polar bear cub

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it will not upgrade the status of the polar bear from “threatened” to “endangered” under the federal Endangered Species Act. Polar bears were put on the Endangered Species Act list in 2008 due to projected loss of sea ice habitat caused by climate change.

However, in order to give polar bears stronger protections, including limiting oil and gas development in their Arctic habitat, National Wildlife Federation has advocated that the bears be given the more protective status of "endangered." Earlier this month, NWF sent a letter to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar urging him to reclassify the polar bear and we generated 10,000 public comments on the issue.

Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist for National Wildlife Federation, was disappointed with the decision not to reclassify bears as an endangered species.

“The Obama administration continues to hand out empty promises instead of meaningful actions to save polar bears," said Dr. Inkley. "Denying polar bears the status of ‘endangered’ impedes our ability to limit oil and gas development in their habitat, which will be essential if the bears are to survive climate change and declining sea ice."

The trends in Arctic sea ice decline are alarming for polar bears. This year, Arctic sea ice extent was the third lowest in the 30 years of satellite observations and overall the ice is melting faster than previously projected. For polar bears and other ice dependent species, there simply is no future unless actions are taken to dramatically reduce global warming pollution.

The clock is winding down for polar bears. The sea ice they need to survive is disappearing, the seals they hunt for food could soon be on the Endangered Species Act list, and polar bears in Canada are starving to death. Each missed opportunity, muddled decision, and backward step pushes polar bears closer to the brink of extinction.”

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