The Center for Biological Diversity says the Interior Department isn’t doing enough to protect Alaska’s polar bears.
Just two months after the Interior Department designated 187,000 square miles along Alaska’s northern coast as a critical polar bear habitat, the environmental group says the government could be doing more. Essentially it looks as though the Center for Biological Diversity is not pleased with the Interior Department’s continued authorization of drilling leases in the California-sized area. The fact that new rigs could be going up as soon as this summer is also not likely to sit well with the Center for Biological Diversity.
It looks like the Center for Biological Diversity plans to meet the Interior Department in court, where the group plans to sue claiming that the government's continued permitting violates its responsibility of ensuring activities in the area don’t harm the bears or their habitat.
One report of out Alaska quotes the CBD’s Rebecca Noblin saying, “The suit is a way to ensure the Interior Department is sufficiently protecting the polar bears under the Endangered Species Act.” That same report quotes a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman saying that “allowing oil exploration in a critical habitat area isn’t unusual, and that the Interior Department has successfully allowed it before in the Arctic.”
Recent action from the Center of Biological Diversity includes a 2005 case when the group asked the Interior Department to list polar bears under the Endangered Species Act. In 2008, the species was classified as “threatened,” but not endangered. That is now being argued in federal court in Washington, D.C. Then there is the November 2010 ruling that designated the 187,000 square miles as a critical polar bear habitat. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has sued the Interior Department over this ruling. The state’s Attorney General John Burns argued that, “What the designation does do is impose another layer of costly regulation on Alaska, its citizens, and it's economy."
No polar bears were available for comment on this story. Unlike years past, I couldn’t find any.