Judge orders Interior Dept to decide Polar Bear's fate


Cross-posted on Reuters

A judge in Oakland, CA, has ordered the U.S. Interior Department to decide within 16 days whether to list the polar bear as an endangered species due to climate change. This comes after the Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, failed to appear at a Senate hearing on the status of the polar bear.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A federal judge has ordered the Interior Department to decide within 16 days whether polar bears should be listed as a threatened species because of global warming.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken agreed with conservation groups that the department missed a Jan. 9 deadline for a decision. She rejected a government request for a further delay and ordered it to act by May 15.
"The science is perfectly clear. There's no dispute. The Polar Bear is an endangered species," Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity, the lead author of the petition submitted in 2005, said.

The Interior Department has refused to make a decision after a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in December 2006, to list the Polar Bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because of the loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change.

Since the proposal, the sea ice has retreated at a record rate, further reducing the Polar Bears' ability to survive, as they require the sea ice to hunt and feed. There have also been reports of Polar Bears drowning in attempts to reach ice. In addition, scientists monitoring the bears have noted a marked decrease in weight of both adult and their young, an unsustainable trend with such a large animal.
Summer sea ice shrank last year to a record low, about 1.65 million square miles in September, nearly 40 percent less ice than the long-term average between 1979 and 2000. Some climate models have predicted the Arctic will be free of summer sea ice by 2030
The order from the judge is not a victory, as the Interior Department could refuse to list the Polar Bear as endangered. Contraindicated by science, the politic pressure from the right to keep the Polar Bear off the list ties to the efforts to obtain oil rights in Alaska and the concern that the listing will grow beyond the arctic region to include other threatened species. The action was brought by several groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club...