Obama WH Keeps Bush WH Rule on Polar Bears

By Gorman Gorman

May 8, 2009 2:09pm

ABC News’ Yunji de Nies reports: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is keeping a Bush administration rule to limit polar bear protections from global warming.  After the polar bear was added to the protected species list under the Endangered Species Act last May, the Bush administration limited its protection, saying only action within the Arctic region could be considered a threat to the bear population. The bear population’s greatest threat to habitat loss is due to shrinking sea ice, caused by global warming.  Environmentalists argue that all federal actions that contribute to climate change should be included in the protections.  President George W. Bush disagreed and apparently, so does President Barrack Obama. "The ESA is not the appropriate tool for us to deal with what is a global issue, and that’s the issue of global warming," Secretary Salazar said.    He went on to say that the administration will be pursuing comprehensive climate change and energy legislation to deal directly with global warming and that, "Both President Obama and I are committed to doing everything we can to protect the polar bear and it’s habitat."  The administration does not believe that the ESA was written to address global warming, and contends that it is not sure that legally it could be used to regulate climate change to protect polar bears. "I think it would be very difficult for our scientists doing the evaluations of a cement plant in Georgia or Florida and it’s impact that it’s gonna have on the polar bear habitat.  I just don’t think the ESA was ever set up organizationally with that contemplation in mind," Salazar said. Salazar’s chief of staff, Tom Strickland, said that ESA will still protect the polar bear, for example from the direct encroachment of human activity. Rowan Gould, acting Director for the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also pointed to $7.4 million in the President’s FY2010 budget to that will go toward polar bear conservation. Environmentalists say they were not entirely surprised by the decision, but are extremely disappointed.  "This is yet another decision by the Department of Interior that undermines protection for our endangered animals," said Andrew Wetzler, Director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Wildlife Conservation Program, "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 NRDC has been suing to overturn the rule since was first enacted and says they will continue with their lawsuit. –Yunji de Nies UPDATE: The administration’s decision drew a quick, partisan response.  In a statement, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, criticized the move. "I disagree with the Department of Interior’s decision to limit the tools we have available under the Endangered Species Act to save the polar bear from extinction. Monitoring the situation will not tell us more than we know now – that the polar bear is threatened and we need to act.” On the other side, Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA), House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member wrote: "I applaud Secretary Salazar for making a common sense decision that will ensure more jobs are not lost due to excessive regulations of greenhouse gases by the government. This decision will help protect crucial projects needed to stimulate our economy from becoming the target of frivolous lawsuits by environmental groups designed to stop economic development in our country." And finally, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Twitter tweeted @AKGovSarahPalin "I’m pleased Interior Sec. Salazar made ESA decision (re: polar bears) based on facts, sound science."

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus