Issue Date: May 5, 2008
Deadline Set For Polar Bear Status
A federal court last week gave the Bush Administration until May 15 to decide whether the polar bear should be protected as a threatened species. The court's order will force the Interior Department to determine whether climate change is shrinking the bears' sea-ice habitat. If it decides this is the case, the department must list polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Environmental groups sought the court order after the Interior Department missed a January deadline to make the determination. Some detractors, including Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee and a climate-change skeptic, say environmentalists are seeking the listing not to protect the polar bear but to force federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. Controls on emissions could become part of a strategy to protect a threatened species' habitat. In any case, Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council says, "The science is absolutely unambiguous that the polar bear deserves protection." The Interior Department says it is evaluating its options.
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