Alaska Joins the Polar Bear Fray

Yesterday the State of Alaska announced that they had filed a long-anticipated lawsuit challenging the polar bear’s Endangered Species Act protection in federal court in Washington, D.C..  Alaska’s case joins an earlier case, filed by the Safari Club and a notice of intent to sue letter filed last week by the Pacific Legal Foundation, also challenging polar bear protections.

The crux of these cases will presumably be to question the scientific evidence that supports protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act.  That’s going to be a tall order.  There is a mountain of scientific evidence pointing to exactly the opposite: the overwhelming indications are not only that polar bears deserve to be protected by the Endangered Species Act.  Indeed, in NRDC’s view they should have been given a higher classification, that of an “endangered” species.  For a flavor of the sheer amount of evidence we’re talking about, you can look at my testimony earlier this year before the Senate’s Environment and Public Work’s Committee here.  Another indication of the weight of the evidence is the fact that, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent out their proposed listing for peer review, 13 out of 14 scientists with whom they consulted supported Endangered Species Act protections for the polar bear.  (See the Final Listing Rule for details)

Even Professor Jonathan Adler, a long-time critic of the Endangered Species Act and—I think it’s fair to say—a sympathetic ear for both Pacific Legal Foundation and Alaska—thinks that the polar bear’s protections are here to stay.  As with the Pacific Legal Foundation’s case and the Safari Club case, NRDC and our allies at the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace will make sure that we weigh in to preserve and strengthen the protections that the polar bear deserves and desperately needs.