Tuesday and Thursday
A few weeks ago the U.S. Department of the Interior added polar bears to the list of animals threatened with extinction by the melting of ice in the Arctic sea. As the LA Times reports
, the polar bear is the first species to be officially acknowledged as threatened by the effects of global warming. But here's where the BushAdmin renders this listing moot:
But the department also issued special rules designed to exempt from the law offshore oil and gas drilling in prime polar bear habitat off Alaska's north coast. Moreover, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced he was taking a series of steps to short-circuit legal plans by conservation groups to use the polar bear's protected status to block new power plants and other sources of carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to global warming. He said listing the polar bear as threatened "should not open the door to use the ESA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, power plants and other sources. That would be a wholly inappropriate use of the Endangered Species Act. The ESA is not the right tool to set U.S. climate policy."
Not that there are any special interests
motivating this decision or anything:
Authorities on environmental law say the whole point of the act is to protect critical ecosystems, not just species in isolation. "It's lawful, and Congress was well aware of that when it enacted the law in 1973," says Patrick Parenteau, a professor at the Vermont Law School. "You can't artificially decide what has an effect on the species. If it's being listed because of climate change, you can't turn around and say, 'We're not going to take climate change into account'." Siegel was disappointed, although hardly surprised, by Kempthorne's position. At least in the short term, the main impact of listing the polar bear will be on American hunters who shoot bears in Canada; they will now be prevented from bringing their trophies back into the United States. "I suppose we're doing what they're accusing us of doing," Siegel says, meaning using the polar bear to achieve a broader environmental goal, "but [the administration] just frames it in this weird, misleading way. They oppose regulation on behalf of industries concerned about short-term profits, not about the future of our children and grandchildren and the world they live in." The accusation about profits might be a sly reference to a former top official of the Interior, deputy assistant secretary Julie MacDonald, who resigned last year one week before Congress opened an investigation of how she handled Endangered Species listings. The resulting report, issued May 21 by the Government Accountability Office, found that she had consistently ruled against positions advocated by Fish and Wildlife Service biologists. According to the report, MacDonald took a particular interest in a petition to list the white-tailed prairie dog, whose habitat in four Western states is also coveted by ranchers, developers and energy companies. The Center for Native Ecosystems presented research indicating that the animal's range has shrunk by 92 percent from its historical extent. Investigators found that MacDonald -- who is not a biologist -- deleted and rewrote portions of the report by Fish and Wildlife Service scientists, reducing the extent of the threat that oil and gas drilling posed to the prairie dog. The report also charged that she pressured staffers to make critical-habitat designations smaller than field biologists had recommended. The GAO report did not accuse her of any illegality; it merely raised strong suspicions that under her watch decisions that were supposed to be made on the science were tainted by politics.
I'm shocked — shocked! Meanwhile, despite this recent decision, one unlucky polar bear fell victim to a police shooting
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