Environmental News: Media Center

Press contact: Eben Burnham-Snyder, NRDC, 202/513-6254; Andrew Wetzler, NRDC, 614/840-0891
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Bush Administration Restricting Scientific Discussion on Polar Bears and Global Warming
Gag Order Issued to Government Officials

WASHINGTON (March 8, 2007) – The Bush Administration has issued an order that would halt free and open discussion by scientists and other government officials on the role global warming is playing in threatening the polar bear.
In a memo obtained by groups working on the listing of the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act, the Bush administration is requiring that all government travel requests “potentially involving climate change, sea ice, and/or polar bears” be accompanied by a memorandum “including a statement of assurance that these individuals understand the Administration's position on these issues.” The two examples of such memos provided with the order both include assurances that the employees would “not be speaking or responding to these issues.”
The order comes just months after the Bush Administration formally proposed protecting polar bears under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because of the effects of global warming of the bear’s sea-ice habitat. Yesterday, the Department of Interior held the last of three public hearings on its proposal in Barrow, AK.
“We need leadership, not censorship on global warming,” said Andrew Wetzler, director of NRDC’s Endangered Species Project. “We rely on our government scientists and officials to be honest brokers with the public and on important issues. This directive restricts their ability to do their jobs.”
The proposal to protect polar bears under the Endangered Species Act was issued in response to a petition and law suit filed by NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Greenpeace.
Polar bears live only in the Arctic and are totally dependent on the sea ice for all of their essential needs, including hunting their prey of ice seals. The rapid warming of the Arctic and melting of the sea ice poses an overwhelming threat to polar bears, which could become the first mammal to lose 100 percent of their habitat to global warming.

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