*NEWS*POLAR BEARS & EXTINCTION

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*NEWS*POLAR BEARS & EXTINCTION

 user 2007-01-03 at 12:34:00 pm Views: 49
  • #17282

    Polar Bears May Be Listed as Threatened
    WASHINGTON
    (jan 07) – Polar bears are in deep trouble because of global warming
    and other factors and deserve federal protection under the Endangered
    Species Act, the Bush administration is proposing Wednesday. The Fish
    and Wildlife Service officials have concluded that polar bears could be
    endangered within 45 years.Pollution and overhunting also threaten
    their existence. Greenland and Norway have the most polar bears, but
    almost 5,000 live mainly in Alaska and travel to Canada and
    Russia.Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne plans to announce later
    Wednesday that polar bears should be listed as a “threatened” species
    on the government list of imperiled species, a department official
    confirmed Wednesday. The “endangered” category is reserved for species
    more likely to become extinct.Such a decision would require all federal
    agencies to ensure that anything they authorize that might affect polar
    bears will not jeopardize their survival or the sea ice where they
    live. That could include oil and gas exploration, commercial shipping
    or even releases of toxic contaminants or climate-affecting
    pollution.Environmentalists hope that invoking the Endangered Species
    Act protections eventually might provide impetus for the government to
    cut back on its emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping
    “greenhouse” gases that are warming the atmosphere.The proposed listing
    also marks a potentially significant departure for the administration
    from its cautious rhetoric about the effects of global
    warming.President Bush’s steadfast refusal to go along with United
    Nations-brokered mandatory controls on carbon dioxide, the chief global
    warming gas, has contributed to international tension between the
    United States and other nations.Polar bears, an iconic and
    cold-dependent animal, are dropping in numbers and weight in the
    Arctic. In July, the House approved a U.S.-Russia treaty to help
    protect polar bears from overhunting and other threats to their
    survival.    That vote put into effect a 2000 treaty that sets quotas
    on polar bear hunting by native populations in the two countries and
    establishes a bilateral commission to analyze how best to sustain sea
    ice. It also approved spending $2 million a year through 2010 for the
    polar bear program.The Polar Bear Specialist Group of the World
    Conservation Union, based in Gland, Switzerland, has estimated that the
    polar bear population in the Arctic has dwindled to 20,000 to
    25,000.The group lists the polar bear among more than 16,000 species
    threatened for survival worldwide, and projects a 30 percent decline in
    their numbers over the next 45 years. It says sea ice is expected to
    decrease 50 percent to 100 percent over the next 50 to 100 years.”The
    Interior Department plans to allow up to 90 days of public comment on
    its proposal, which was first reported by The Washington Post on its
    Web site on Tuesday night.A little over a year ago, three environmental
    groups – the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense
    Council and Greenpeace – filed suit to force such a proposal from
    Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees endangered
    species. Fish and Wildlife officials have been reviewing the status of
    polar bears more than two years.They were pleased by the decision
    Wednesday.”This is a victory for the polar bear, and all wildlife
    threatened by global warming,” Kassie Siegel, a lawyer for the Center
    for Biological Diversity, said Wednesday. “There is still time to save
    polar bears but we must reduce greenhouse gas pollution immediately.”