Polar Bear Listed as Threatened;
Disappointment & Concerns Voiced
May 14, 2008
(SitNews) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced
its decision today to list the polar bear as threatened under
the Endangered Species Act. U.S. Department of Interior Secretary
Dirk Kempthorne called Governor Sarah Palin this morning to inform
her of the USFWS decision, and assured her that oil and gas developments
are not to blame.
The state will work with the USFWS on the designation of critical
habitat and development of any conservation actions that may
be necessary to ensure the continued viability of the species.
While the state is disappointed with this decision, Governor
Palin said, the state stands ready to assist the USFWS to ensure
that polar bear populations remain viable for decades to come.
"We offer the substantial expertise of the Alaska Department
of Fish and Game to assist in the protection of polar bears,
and in minimizing negative impacts on the people of Alaska and
on important activities elsewhere in the country," she said.
"Alaskans take our public
trust responsibilities for our resources very seriously, and
we welcome the opportunity to work with the federal agencies
to address the conservation needs of these magnificent animals,"
Governor Palin said. "We will continue to take the steps
necessary to ensure that polar bears continue to thrive for generations
The Governor expressed her hope that federal agencies will continue
to provide for customary and traditional uses of polar bears.
She also remains concerned that federal actions do not threaten
the viable, productive and environmentally responsible oil and
gas industry along Alaska's North Slope. Attorney General Talis
Colberg will review the USFWS decision and the accompanying administrative
record to determine whether there are significant defects that
merit judicial scrutiny.
Senator Murkowski opposed the
listing polar bear as a threatened species and said, "I
can't express how extremely disappointed I am that the United
States Fish and Wildlife Service has chosen to list the polar
bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. I believe
it is grossly premature, even with qualifications, to recommend
this action based on highly variable climate change models and
projected impacts of loss of summer sea ice on a currently healthy
Murkowski said, "Alaska's and most nations' polar bear stocks
are at near modern record levels. A listing decision based purely
on speculation about the future, lack of existing data, and in
the absence of better research on bear prey species populations,
sets a truly dangerous precedent for listings of a host of wildlife
species." She said, "Such a decision threatens the
integrity of the entire Act and could prove far worse for wildlife
protection in the future."
"Canada, which has the world's largest population of polar
bears," said Murkowski, "has chosen to not list the
polar bear as threatened or endangered, but as a species of "special
concern." I believe our Service has erred in its determination
because it is simply too soon to determine the impacts of loss
of sea ice on the present population. "
Murkowski said she is concerned that a threatened listing could
have serious ramifications for the State of Alaska and the development
of all of our natural resources. She said, "I certainly
don't believe a threatened listing should affect the construction
of an Alaskan natural gas pipeline, or of any other oil and gas
projects, since there is zero evidence that any such project
has harmed bear populations in the least. Clearly we want to
promote the use of clean-burning natural gas to reduce carbon
Murkowski said she agrees with the agency that subsistence hunting
and oil and gas development in Alaska are not a threat to the
polar bear and welcome their qualified listing decision. "Clearly
the Marine Mammal Protection Act offers more protection for polar
bears than the ESA does and current regulations should remain
in place for these activities," she said. "But the
qualified listing still doesn't alleviate my deep concern that
outside interests will now try to use the courts to expand the
impact of this decision in ways never intended when the ESA became
"I am afraid that this decision opens a Pandora's Box that
the Administration will now be unable to close," said Sen.
Senator Ted Stevens also reacted
to today's announcement listing the polar bear as endangered.
He said,"I am disappointed and disturbed by the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service's decision to weaken the Endangered Species
Act by listing the polar bear as threatened despite the steady
increase in the species' population. Scientists have observed
that there are now three times as many polar bears in the Arctic
than there were in the 1970s."
Stevens said, "Never before has a species been listed as
endangered or threatened while occupying its entire geographic
"This decision was made without any research demonstrating
dangerously low population levels in polar bears," said
Stevens, "but rather on speculation regarding how ice levels
will affect Arctic wildlife. Worse yet, today's decision cannot
and will not do anything to reverse sea ice decline."
Stevens said, "Instead, this action by the Fish and Wildlife
Service sets a dangerous precedent with far-reaching social and
economic ramifications. It opens the door for many other Arctic
species to be listed, which would severely hamper Alaska's ability
to tap its vast natural resources." He said, "Reinterpreting
the Endangered Species Act in this way is an unequivocal victory
for extreme environmentalists who want to block all development
in our state. "
"The manipulation of the Endangered Species Act was highlighted
by Kassie Siegel, the lawyer who wrote the legal petition for
the Center for Biological Diversity," said Stevens. "Ms.
Siegel made no attempt to disguise her group's intent when she
said that the effort to list the polar bears was to 'try to make
the point that global warming is not some future threat'. This
statement confirms that these fringe environmentalists are simply
using the polar bears to advance their extreme agenda. "
Stevens said, "This abuse of Endangered Species law will
have a devastating impact on the entire nation through endless
litigation and regulation. It will ultimately weaken the Act
itself, which has been one of our nation's most valuable tools
for conserving wildlife."
"Alaskans must now stand together and fight attempts to
exploit the public's fear of climate change as a means to impose
unreasonable burdens in our state. The future of Alaska will
depend on it," said Senator Stevens.
On the Web:
Secretary Kempthorne Announcement
to Protect Polar Bears Under Endangered Species Act
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Office of Alaska Gov. Sarah
Office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski
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