Polar bears threatened, not endangered, US agency says

Environmental
campaigners in the US have lost a battle to have the polar bear listed as an
“endangered” species.

The US Department of the
Interior has upheld a decision to classify the bear as “threatened” — a status
that gives the bears less protection under the law.

The government said it
did not find that polar bears were on the brink of extinction, needed to
qualify for the status of “endangered”.

Environmental
campaigners have said they will challenge the decision.

‘Anti-science
decision’

Under the Endangered
Species Act, the status of “endangered” requires the government to assess the
impact of greenhouse gases on the bears’ Arctic homelands.

When the government
is considering permits for oil development in northern Alaska, it must include
greenhouse gas emissions in its decision.

When the polar bear
was listed as “threatened” by the administration of former US President George
W. Bush, officials invoked a special rule saying the Endangered Species Act
could not be used to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

So an “endangered”
listing is a more powerful tool for limiting industrial activity that causes
greenhouse gases.

The Centre for
Biological Diversity — one of the groups trying to get the polar bear listed
as “endangered” — said the ruling showed that the administration of US
President Barack Obama was continuing to defend Bush-era “anti-science
decisions”.

It says polar bears face
an 80 per cent chance of extinction within 40 years and it will continue to
challenge the US government in court.

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