[Update Mar 3 2011: An Alaska oil industry trade group representing 15 oil & gas companies sued the US federal government because it banned drilling in 187,157 square miles as polar bear critical habitat. They claim plenty of polar bears without offering any evidence. And it’s not like Alaskan oil interests haven’t run the state for years. My article below documents how 30 million acres of polar bear habitat were auctioned off in a big hurry in 2008. It really is all about oil/gas $ VS survival of polar bears. — Stephen]
[Update: May 1 2010 – Alaska’s polar bears are now official listed as threatened. In April 2010, the Obama administration tried but failed to get the world’s 20-25,000 remaining polar bears listed as endangered species. What a difference a new administration makes .–Stephen]
By Stephen Leahy
BROOKLIN, Canada, Mar 11, 2008 (IPS)
A coalition of environmental groups sued the George W. Bush administration Monday for delaying a decision to protect polar bears threatened with extinction due to the melting ice in its Arctic habitat. Polar bears could be the first species officially threatened by climate change.
The huge loss of summer sea ice in 2007 has caused many scientists to project that the Arctic could be ice-free in summer by as soon as 2012. Although excellent swimmers, polar bears are not very good at catching seals in the water. Seals comprise the main diet for these giant bears, which are far larger than their grizzly bear cousins.
While legally required to make a decision Jan. 9, US Fish and Wildlife (U.S. FWS) officials have been silent. Meanwhile on Feb. 6, 2.6 billion dollars in oil and gas leases were auctioned off to energy companies on nearly 30 million acres of prime polar bear habitat in the Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.
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“Coincidence? I doubt it, but I don’t have the smoking gun to prove it,” said Kassie Siegel of the Centre for Biological Diversity (CBD), an environmental non-governmental organisation based in Joshua Tree, California.
The CBD, along with Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defence Council, filed the suit for missing the legal deadline for issuing a final decision on whether to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming.
“There was absolutely no urgency to hold that lease sale and plenty of public opposition to it as well,” Siegel told IPS. Continue reading