Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced today that the Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) is to be granted protection under the US Endangered Species Act. The long overdue listing decision classifies the species as 'threatened' and represents the culmination of more than three years of petitions, law suits, scientific evaluation, and controversy.
In his announcement, Kempthorne revealed that the Bush Administration would hold a tight rein on the listing. It was clear the Bush Administration has no intention of allowing the Polar Bear's status under the ESA to impose any restraints on industry. Kempthorne stated:
"I am also announcing that this listing decision will be accompanied by administrative guidance and a rule that defines the scope of impact my decision will have, in order to protect the polar bear while limiting the unintended harm to the society and economy of the United States."
Kempthorne's conditions did not end there, he continued to add:
"While the legal standards under the ESA compel me to list the polar bear as threatened, I want to make clear that this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting. Any real solution requires action by all major economies for it to be effective. That is why I am taking administrative and regulatory action to make certain the ESA isnít abused to make global warming policies."
It is encouraging that the Bush Administration listed the Polar Bear under the ESA in light of the significant amount of scientific evidence illustrating the need to do so. But it remains to be seen if the listing will result in any real protection for the species or if the Bush Administration will succeed in crippling any real conservation efforts by eroding the effectiveness of the ESA.
Find out more:
- Secretary Kempthorne Announces Decision to Protect Polar Bears under Endangered Species Act (DOI)
- Overdue Decision Makes Polar Bears a 'Threatened Species' (Science News)
Photo © John Pitcher / iStockphoto.