The Bush Administration, under pressure from three environmental groups, will propose listing polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, says a news report in the Washington Post.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has scheduled a news conference today to discuss status of the animals said the Post, quoting an Interior official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The department is expected to submit the proposal today for publication in the Federal Register. After that, it would be subject to public comment for 90 days.
“We’ve reviewed all the available data that leads us to believe the sea ice the polar bear depends on has been receding,” the Post quoted the Interior official as saying. “Obviously, the sea ice is melting because the temperatures are warmer.”
It further quoted the official as saying Fish and Wildlife Service officials have concluded that polar bears could be endangered within 45 years.
Once a species is listed as threatened, the government is barred from doing anything to jeopardize the animal’s existence or its habitat. In the case of polar bears, environmentalists hope to force the government to curb emissions of greenhouse gases.
In response to a lawsuit filed by three environmental groups on Dec. 15, 2005, Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service launched a review in February saying a change to threatened may be warranted.