Good News and Bad News About the Polar Bear Decision

There was good news and bad news for the polar bear yesterday. First, the good: after a three-year legal battle waged by NRDC and the Center for Biological Diversity, the Bush Administration announced that it will protect polar bears as a “threatened species” under the Endangered Species Act.

This is the very first time our government has used the Endangered Species Act to protect a species mainly threatened by the ravages of global warming. That is a landmark accomplishment.

The bad news? The Bush administration’s plan for “protection” is so full of loopholes for oil companies and other polluters that it could be the equivalent of sending a leaky lifeboat to rescue drowning polar bears. In the listing decision, the administration claims that federal agencies need not consider the impact of global warming pollution on the polar bear. It even proposed a separate regulation reducing the protections the polar bear would otherwise receive.

Simply put, we have finally gotten the Bush Administration to acknowledge the gravity of the polar bear’s plight -- and that’s crucial -- but it’s NOT enough to ensure the polar bear’s survival. The fight goes on.

The administration’s attempt to water down protection for the polar bear is illegal -- and it won’t hold up in court. That’s why NRDC is already preparing to fight the next round of this legal battle and secure the kind of full-fledged protection that polar bears so desperately need and deserve.

Time is short. The Arctic sea ice that polar bears depend on for survival is melting at a rate that has shattered the very worst predictions. Several leading scientists now predict the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in the summer by 2012. One government study predicts that two-thirds of polar bears could perish by 2050.

We don’t intend to back down or declare final victory until the polar bear is no longer facing the unthinkable threat of extinction. Click here to find out how you can help.

About the Authors

Frances Beinecke

Former President

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