No Climate Regulation for Polar Bear

Although Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency are busy figuring out how to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service isn’t going to get into the game. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that the agency would not use the polar bear as a way to clamp down on the global emissions that are melting the sea ice that the threatened species depends on.

In May 2008, the Bush Administration, after multiple lawsuits, put the polar bear on the endangered species list and acknowledged that the survival of the species is jeopardized by climate change. At the same time, it issued a special rule that prevented the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions on behalf of the polar bear. Bush officials argued that the Endangered Species Act wasn’t the right approach for climate regulation. Today, Salazar agreed.

“We must do all we can to help the polar bear recover, recognizing that the
greatest threat to the polar bear is the melting of Arctic sea ice caused
by climate change,” Salazar said. “However, the Endangered Species Act is
not the proper mechanism for controlling our nation’s carbon emissions.
Instead, we need a comprehensive energy and climate strategy that curbs
climate change and its impacts – including the loss of sea ice. Both
President Obama and I are committed to achieving that goal.”

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, was particularly unhappy.

Photo: Steve Hillebrand /USFWS