Polar Bears Take Back Seat to Polluters

polar bearNEW YORK(RUSHPRNEWS) 09/16/2008--NRDC is dragging the Bush Administration back to court in the wake of its decision to deny the polar bear full-fledged protection under the Endangered Species Act. Following a three-year legal battle waged by NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace, the administration announced in May that it would protect polar bears as a threatened species. 

While the new designation was a step forward, the administration’s actual plan is riddled with giant loopholes for oil companies and global warming polluters, which pose the gravest threat to the bear’s existence. “The Bush Administration has got it exactly backwards, with polluters coming first, polar bears second,” said Andrew Wetzler, director of NRDC’s Endangered Species Project. “That’s not just unconscionable; it’s illegal. If this decision were to stand, the polar bear’s habitat would keep melting away even as it is invaded by rigs, pipelines and oil spills.”

In response, NRDC and our partners have filed yet another lawsuit against the Bush Administration in order to win ironclad federal safeguards for the polar bear. Over the past three decades, the Arctic ice cap has shrunk by 1 million square miles — an area six times the size of California. If effective measures are not taken quickly, the polar bear could lose 100 percent of its habitat to global warming and become extinct in Alaska by 2050. In tandem with our ongoing legal fight, NRDC Members and online activists have flooded the Bush Administration with petitions in support of uncompromising protection for the polar bear.

As we go to press, NRDC is also signing on to a “friend of the court” brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups that challenges the Interior Department’s Five-Year Plan for oil and gas development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas — also known as the Polar Bear Seas. The plan would dramatically increase the size and scope of oil and gas leasing in this vital habitat for polar bears, endangered whales and migratory birds. The Bush Administration has gone to the extent of issuing the equivalent of a “polar bear insurance policy” to seven oil companies, allowing them to harm polar bears while drilling for oil.

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