Thursday, May 15, 2008

Interior calls polar bears 'threatened,' says move won't affect environmental rules; groups disagree

(Canadian Press photo by Jonathan Hayward) Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne made the polar bear a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act yesterday, but warned that his action "should not open the door to use of the ESA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, power plants, and other sources." Environmental groups disagreed.

"The law says what it says, not what the administration wishes it says," Kassie Siegel, climate program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Washington Post. "This is great news for polar bears. . . . It's also a watershed moment, the strongest statement we've had to date from this administration about global warming."

Dale Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which recommended that the bear be listed as threatened, "said such regulations would be justified only if the administration could prove a direct connection between the emissions and the polar bears' predicament," writes the Post's Juliet Eilperin. "We have to be able to connect the dots," Hall told her. "We don't have the science today to be able to do that." (Read more)

What's the difference in threatened and endangered? "A species is listed as threatened when it is at risk of becoming endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. In contrast, a species is endangered when it is currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range," says the Interior Department news release. For the rest of it, click here.

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