In 2005, a group of conservationists and scientists initiated a process that could win the polar bears protection under the Endangered Species Act. But that process has been lengthy, complicated, and at times embroiled in controversy. It has involved numerous organizations:
- Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)–Conservation organization that put together a 170-page petition detailing why polar bears require protection under the Endangered Species Act. The petition was submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Interior.
- Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC)–Conservation organization that joined forces with Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace to call for polar bear listing.
- Greenpeace–Conservation organization that joined forces with Center for Biological Diversity and National Resources Defence Council to call for polar bear listing.
- US Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS)–Government organization that administers the Endangered Species Act (in cooperation with NOAA Fisheries) and is responsible for putting together endangered species listing proposals and handling commenting periods and evaluation of scientific evidence for potential endangered species.
- Department of the Interior (DOI) / Bush Administration–The DOI and current administration are also involved with the administration of the Endangered Species Act to a degree and are responsible for ensuring that the US FWS properly administers the Act.
The process has plodded along through a lawsuit and several commenting periods. The timeline below outlines what's happened so far in the process to protect the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act:
- February 16, 2005–The CBD submitted a petition to the US FWS and DOI. The petition included extensive data about polar bear natural history, biology, and population trends. The US FWS had 90 days thereafter to respond to the petition.
- July 5, 2005–The NRDC and Greenpeace joined forces with the CBD in support of the petition they submitted to the US FWS in February 2005.
- December 15, 2005–The CBD, Greenpeace, and the NRDC together file suit against the Bush Administration for failing to take steps to protect the polar bear from extinction and for ignoring the February 2005 petition filed by the CBD.
- February 9, 2006–The US FWS announced a positive response to the petition and agreed to continue with the process of evaluating whether or not the polar bear should be protected under the ESA.
- December 27, 2006–The Bush Administration announced the proposal to list the polar bear under the ESA.
- January 9, 2007–The US FWS published the Proposed Rule to list the polar bear under the ESA. This began a year-long comment and review period during which time experts evaluated public comments and scientific data about polar bears.
- January 9, 2008–The final decision is expected to be released regarding whether or not to list the polar bear under the ESA.