We’d like to say that it’s impossible to hate polar bears (I mean seriously, how can you not love a creature that is cuter than a puppy and more majestic that a pride of lions?). But certain state and federal officials seem to really have it out for the Arctic bears.
Former VP candidate Sarah Palin sued the government to prevent polar bears from being protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and even went so far as to suppress scientific evidence proved the bear’s dire status. It took Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne more than three years to finally list the polar bear as a threatened species, after environmental groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and the NRDC sued on the bear’s behalf in 2005. Now, Kempthorne’s wieled his power for evil once again, issuing a “special rule” that may prohibit protections for the polar bear’s Arctic sea ice habitat.
From the Associated Press:
"Kempthorne made permanent a rule that says the listing of polar bears will not be used to limit greenhouse gas emissions, a leading cause of global warming, and the primary reason for the loss of Arctic sea ice, the main habitat of polar bears.
Kempthorne’s rule also declared that decisions on petroleum management off Alaska’s coast will continue to be governed by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a law that conservation groups say has been interpreted too loosely to afford adequate protection for whales, polar bears, walrus and seals that depend on ice."
Hmm, maybe it’s not that Kempthorne hates polar bears, but that he loves him some oil industry buddies.
And to add insult to injury, get a load of what ol’ Thorney said next. From the AP:
"Kempthorne on Thursday repeated the logic that led him to propose the special rule in May. There’s no proof, he said, that activities outside Alaska 'show a casual connection impacting individual polar bears.'"
OK, Kempthorne. Sure, we’ll pretend that worldwide carbon emissions aren’t contributing to global warming; and that said warming isn’t melting Arctic sea ice (this year’s ice was the second lowest level on record), and that polar bear’s don’t rely on that ice to carry out their day-to-day living. What do those climate scientists know anyway?
We can’t say we’re surprised by Kempthorne’s new rule. He’s said before that the ESA should not be used as a “back door” to regulate carbon emissions and other GHGs, and a recent proposal would weaken the ESA by eliminating the need for independent environmental impact assessments before federal projects like roads are built.
Needless to say, environmentalists are pissed. Attorneys at the Center for Biological Diversity claim that the regulations seem designed to drive the bears into extinction. They certainly have reason to be concerned: A 2004 study said that polar bears could go extinct by the end of the century if global warming continues unabated.
We recommend that certain federal officials check out the “Polar Bears” section of this photography page from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Now tell us if you still think these magnificent creatures aren’t worth saving.
Story by Sarah Parsons. This article originally appeared in Plenty in December 2008.