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18 December 2005

"Green Groups" pressure US to address melting ice cap to save polar bears

Polar bear Olinka protects her female cub between her front paws in the Vienna Schoenbrunn zoo, March 11, 2005. Three environmental groups are suing the U.S. government to force consideration of whether polar bears are a threatened species, saying rising global temperatures threaten to kill off the Arctic predators. (Reuters photo by Leonhard Foeger)

This is extremely interesting. Three American environmental advocacy groups are beginning a process which, if successful, will put the screws on the Bush Administration (and whoever comes after) that could use the federal courts to force the U.S. government to address its (notoriously hostile) policies toward Global Warming.

Activities that take place on U.S. territory which endanger the survival of a biological species can be challenged by citizens and nature advocacy groups, and if the challenges and petitions are successful, federal agencies are required by law to take steps to protect the endangered species and the natural habitat that sustains the species.

Although Alaska is part of the polar bear's circumpolar range, this lawsuit is far broader and more ambitious than those in the past. It seeks to make the United States government responsible for its share of responsibility -- through its industrial activities -- for the shrinking of the entire Arctic ice cap, and thus the degradation of the polar bear's circumpolar habitat.

[Vleeptron will try to contact Nephew Ice Cube to get his comments on comparable developments in the Antarctic. In his reports during his expedition, NIC has yet to comment directly on the rate of melt and predicted trends of the Antarctic ice. He has in the past worked on important surveys seeking to establish the rate of shrinking of Alaskan glaciers.]

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is the world's largest land predator. Human beings (on foot, unassisted by helicopters -- in decades past, "sportsmen" used to hunt them this way, but the practice is now outlawed) may think they are hunting polar bears, but the polar bear has just as much reason to think he is hunting Homo sapiens, and it often turns out that way. Polar bears think and plan their hunts, are incredible underwater swimmers, fear no other creature, and are so superbly insulated that most of the time their challenge is to keep cool rather than to keep warm. Inuit and circumpolar First Peoples tend to regard the hunting and survival virtues of the polar bear with a respect bordering on worship.

One of the great privileges of my life was to have seen polar bears (adolescent males waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze over so they could hunt seals) in the wild. You should think about going, too.

This story suggests, most miserably, that you might not have forever to have this experience. The melting of the Arctic ice cap will cause enormous difficulties throughout the world, but for sheer tragedy and the failure of human conservation and stewardship of life on this planet, the vanishing of polar bears will be the worst.

From Solcomhouse, a clearing house for global environmental issues:

Polar bears range throughout the Arctic in areas where they can hunt seals at open leads. The five "polar bear nations" where the ice bears are found include the U.S. (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Denmark (Greenland), and Norway.

* * *

Saturday 17 December 2005

Green groups sue U.S.
to protect polar bears

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -- Three environmental groups are suing the U.S. government to force consideration of whether polar bears are a threatened species, saying rising global temperatures threaten to kill off the Arctic predators.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Thursday, asks the Interior Department to make an initial ruling on a petition to bestow the broad federal protection of the Endangered Species Act upon polar bears by designating them as "threatened."

An "endangered" species is one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Web site. A "threatened" species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future, according to the agency.

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace, which say the department should have ruled on its petition within 90 days of its filing in February.

If the suit is successful, there will be two more steps, each of which can take up to a year, before polar bears could be officially listed as threatened.

The groups argue that rising global temperatures endangers polar bears by melting the ice floes on which the giant predators prowl and hunt.

Kassie Siegel, climate director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the group's petition on polar bears was bolstered by a report this week from the U.S. Minerals Management Service detailing the deaths of four polar bears that drowned in September 2004.

[VLEEPTRON: The U.S.MMS report on polar bears in the Beaufort Sea is available as a .pdf document.]

"As global warming continues, more bears are going to die. This is very predictable, it's common sense," Siegel said. "Their habitat is sea ice. They don't hunt from land, they don't hunt from water. They can't survive if their habitat disappears."

A spokesman for the Interior Department did not return a call seeking comment.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

check out greenpeace's polar bear add attached to the campaign:


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