Problem for Polar Bears: Department of Interior Sticks with "Special Rule" Undercutting Protection

CHICAGO (May 8, 2009) – The Department of Interior announced today that a controversial rule undercutting Endangered Species Act protections for the polar bear would remain in place. The special regulations issued by the Bush administration and generally called a “special rule” or a “4(d) rule” effectively waived many of the protections the polar bear would have received through its listing under the Endangered Species Act. When Interior listed the bears as threatened last year it agreed with scientists about the impacts of Arctic warming on polar bears, yet the “special rule” excludes greenhouse gas emissions thereby limiting protection of the bears under the Endangered Species Act.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Center for Biological Diversity, and Greenpeace initiated a legal challenge to the 4(d) rule last May.

Following are comments from Andrew Wetzler, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Program at NRDC:

“This is yet another decision by the Department of Interior that undermines protection for our endangered animals. The impact of global warming are already being felt in the arctic, and it poses a grave threat to polar bears and the entire ecosystem. We need to use every tool at our disposal, including the Endangered Species Act. The rule endorsed today is illegal, and we will continue to fight it in court.”

Additional commentary and a legal critique of today’s announcement can be found on Wetzler’s blog at

Broadcast quality polar bear video is available for download at