After wolves. Are bears next?

Polar bear (Tim Knepp, USFWS)

There’s a lot at stake in Congressional efforts to strip wolves of their endangered species protection.  Many worry that wolves are just the beginning of political interference in the Endangered Species Act, and they are right to worry.  Protections won in San Francisco’s Bay-Delta for threatened and endangered species, such as wild salmon and steelhead, are already targeted by the House’s budget bill.

Now it looks like polar bears might be next.  Earlier this year Alaska Rep. Don Young introduced a bill to end Endangered Species Act protections for polar bears.  H.R. 39 simply states that the listing of the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act “shall have no force or effect.”  It’s not a new idea (Rep. Young introduced an identical bill during the last Congress) but there’s a whole new crowd in charge of the House of Representatives these days.

It doesn’t seem to matter that the sea-ice habitat polar bears depend on is rapidly vanishing or that we’ve all been shocked by images of bears starving and mother bears losing their young as they swim for days in search of ever fading ice.  No, all that may matter is that polar bears have powerful political opponents who have every reason to deny them protection. 

If wolves can’t keep their protections, will polar bears fare any better?  And after them, what’s next…?