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Check out the "Important Links to Sites about Polar Bears" in the sidebar to see organizations doing research and working to preserve the magnificent Polar Bear.

Protect a species, one bear at a time - Polar bears need your help now!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Knut's zookeeper has passed away...

According to AP Reports and CBS News, the zookeeper, Thomas Dorflein, who hand-reared Knut the abandoned polar bear has passed away. No cause of death has been revealed. From the story:

"With his burly build, beard and ponytail, Doerflein was a distinctive figure at the side of the growing bear. He nursed young Knut in his arms behind closed doors and wrestled with him after the bear grew old enough to play.

When Knut made his public debut in March 2007, Doerflein was at his side. They started a daily performance for the thousands of visitors who flocked to see the bear at his outdoor enclosure."

Barooooooooooooooooo! [Bear crying sound]

Let's take a look at Thomas Dorflein's legacy in one of the BEST Knut vids ever...





Video by DirtyHarryGermany

Read More, See More Photos and Read the Comments . . . CLICK HERE

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Suit Filed Over Arctic Oil Drilling in Alaska

Suit Filed Over Arctic Oil Drilling in Alaska

This week, the Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Environment sued Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for blasting loopholes the size of polar bears and Pacific walrus in the Marine Mammal Protection Act when it comes to oil drilling in Alaska's Chukchi Sea.

When Kempthorne announced May 15 that the polar bear had been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, he also infamously argued that the bears merited no new protections, since they were already shielded by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Interior then exempted polar bears from both Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act standards that would bar oil companies from harassing or harming bears -- specifically, giving free rein to oil companies to conduct business worse than usual in the Chukchi Sea for the next five years.





Among the most unspoiled areas in Alaska's Arctic, the Chukchi Sea is home to most of the world's Pacific walrus and one of only two U.S. polar bear populations. In February, Interior auctioned off 2.7 million acres of the sea to oil companies, with more lease sales planned in 2010 and 2012. Under the administration's new rules, oil companies in the sea have free access to compromise polar bear and walrus habitat with new offshore oil rigs, sonic blasts, hundreds of miles of roads, increased disruptive ship and aircraft activity, and a 40-percent chance of an oil spill. All that in addition to creating more of the greenhouse gas emissions that are melting the animals' sea-ice habitat in the first place.



Reuters, July 9, 2008

Groups to sue over oil impacts to polar bears
By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Two environmental groups filed notice on Monday that they plan to sue the federal government for not imposing new regulations on oil development in Alaska's Arctic waters as part of offering protective status to polar bears.

Last month, polar bears were listed as threatened, a protective status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, but Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne also enacted a rule precluding oil operators from any new impediments other than those already required by Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Environment said the Interior Department is violating the Endangered Species Act by giving oil companies exploring the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas a pass from additional regulation.

Since the rapidly warming Arctic climate, not oil development, is the cause of the ice-dependent polar bears' woes, oil explorers should not face additional regulatory hurdles, according to Kempthorne.

"The only thing keeping pace with the drastic melting of the Arctic sea ice is the breakneck speed with which the Department of the Interior is rushing to sell off polar bear habitat for fossil fuel development," said Brendan Cummings, oceans program director for the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement.

The environmental groups, in their 60-day notice of their intent to sue, said the Interior Department must take steps to curb oil development's direct impacts nonetheless.

As offshore development expands, polar bears are at risk from noise and other disturbances caused by vessels, aircraft and drilling platforms, the deafening blasts of seismic tests and multiple oil and chemical spills, the groups said.

The center and Pacific Environment are two of the three groups that filed the original petition and lawsuit that prompted the threatened listing for the polar bear.

A spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which regulates polar bears, said he had not yet seen Monday's notice and could not comment specifically on it.

"In the finding for the Endangered Species listing, oil and gas development was not seen as one of the critical factors threatening the polar bear," said Bruce Woods, a spokesman for the service in Alaska.

Alaska's federally managed outer continental shelf, long considered too remote and costly to drill, is emerging as a hot prospect for new oil and gas exploration.

A February lease sale for the Chukchi Sea off northwestern Alaska drew a record $2.66 billion in high bids, with $2.1 billion of bids coming from Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

BP, meanwhile, is moving to develop its Liberty prospect in the Beaufort into what would be the first producing Alaska oil field located entirely in federal waters.


Read More, See More Photos and Read the Comments . . . CLICK HERE

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Center for Biological Diversity - Take Action Now



Center for Biological Diversity

Protect Polar Bear Habitat, Take Action Now

Last month the Bush administration was forced to recognize the serious threats to polar bear survival, listing the bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. But just as it made one step forward to protect the bear, the administration took two steps back -- refusing to address the effects of global warming on the rapidly melting sea ice and allowing environmentally damaging oil and gas development to continue in the Arctic.


To counter this massive loophole, representatives Jay Inslee and Maurice Hinchey have introduced a bill to halt oil and gas leases in the bears' Arctic habitat until scientists can fully assess the environmental impacts and designate protected critical habitat.

Support the "Polar Bear Seas Protection Act" and ensure that polar bears get the protection they need to survive.

We can't afford to leave polar bears unprotected against the ongoing threats of global warming and continued development in the Arctic. The Arctic sea ice is rapidly diminishing and scientists predict that the habitat crucial to the bears’ survival may be gone by mid-century. We must act now.

The Polar Bear Seas Protection Act will help ensure that the bears get the immediate protection they need. Fill out the form below and let your representative know that you support real protections for polar bears today.

Tell Congress that you support real protection for polar bears. The Polar Bear Seas Protection Act will help ensure that the bears get the immediate protection they need.

Urge Congress to protect polar bears today.

Sincerely,


Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

PS: If you have difficulty with the links above, please copy and paste this directly into your browser:
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2167/t/5243/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=24969








Photos by Urso Branco

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Bush Admin Gives Big Oil "Blank Check to Harass the Polar Bear"


Bush Admin Gives Big Oil "Blank Check to Harass the Polar Bear"

16 Jun 2008 08:27 AM CDT

Polar Bears From the Associated Press:

Less than a month after declaring polar bears a threatened species because of global warming, the Bush administration is giving oil companies permission to annoy and potentially harm them in the pursuit of oil and natural gas.

The Fish and Wildlife Service issued regulations this week providing legal protection to seven oil companies planning to search for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea off the northwestern coast of Alaska if "small numbers" of polar bears or Pacific walruses are incidentally harmed by their activities over the next five years.

Exploring in the Chukchi Sea's 29.7 million acres will require as many as five drill ships, one or two icebreakers, a barge, a tug and two helicopter flights per day, according to the government. Oil companies will also be making hundred of miles of ice roads and trails along the coastline.

The National Wildlife Federation was already suspicious of the Bush administration's commitment to protecting polar bears. Now the Center for Biological Diversity calls this decision "a blank check to harass the polar bear in the Chukchi Sea."


From WWF-Canada
Polar bears listed as threatened in U.S.!

The U.S. government has listed the polar bear as threatened, stating that climate change is destroying vital polar bear habitat, putting the species at risk of extinction. This puts increasing pressure on the Canadian government to recognize and act on the accelerating impacts of climate change on Arctic communities and species, including polar bears.

Listing the polar bear as threatened clearly indicates that climate change impacts are already threatening animals and habitats, and illustrates the urgency of preparing for and adapting to a rapidly changing climate.

This reinforces the urgency of the three actions that WWF-Canada has called on Prime Minister Harper to take: Place a moratorium on new industrial development in areas of high value to polar bears.
Ensure any hunting for polar bears is fully sustainable.
Most importantly, quickly stop, then reverse the rise in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, so we are doing our part in the global fight against climate change.

Development in the Beaufort Sea

In May, we asked our supporters to write to members of parliament in an effort to postpone the sale of oil and gas leases in the Beaufort Sea, as these leases overlap prime polar bear, beluga and bowhead whale habitat. Unfortunately, the federal government has allowed these lease sales to go forward.

WWF-Canada fundamentally believes that this lease sale was premature as an ocean management plan for this area that would protect critical habits essential for polar bears, whales and other Arctic species has yet to be put in place.

In addition, as there is no current proven technique for recovering oil spills in such dangerous iced waters, we must ensure that the inevitable oil spills which will occur can be properly cleaned up.

Currently, planning is underway through the Large Ocean Management Area (LOMA) process, co-led by the Inuvialuit and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. However, this planning is not yet complete in the Beaufort Sea. WWF-Canada is a participant in this process.

WWF-Canada will continue to push for a proper plan to be put in place that sets aside ecologically sensitive areas from development as required under the Oceans Act, and to work to ensure that a proper oil spill response capacity is in place before development proceeds.

Thank you for your recent efforts. As this process unfolds, we will continue to keep you updated.


Read More, See More Photos and Read the Comments . . . CLICK HERE

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Back to Court


Center for Biological Diversity

Bush's May 14th decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species contained a cynical "special rule" designed to prevent the listing from having any impact on global warming.

The administration admitted that the polar bear is spiraling toward extinction due to global warming, but brazenly refused to do anything about it. It even admitted that its goal was to keep the oil wells flowing and the power plants polluting.

Time is short for the polar bear, so with lightning speed the Center for Biological Diversity and its allies at NRDC and Greenpeace hauled the Bush administration back to court on Friday to challenge the "special rule."

When the Center wrote the scientific petition to protect the polar bear in 2005, we expected Bush to use every trick in the book to avoid protecting it. He has, but thus far we've turned him back at every step. We won two previous lawsuits to get this far. You can be sure we'll win this one as well.

Center for Biological Diversity



Arizona Daily Star, Maio 21, 2008
Critics: Polar bear plan must fight global warming
By Dan Joling (Associated Press)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Conservation groups returned to court to challenge Bush administration efforts to help save the polar bear, saying federal officials' refusal to include steps against global warming violates the Endangered Species Act.

In court documents filed late Friday, the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups asked a federal judge to reject Interior Department actions that were announced last week.

Polar bears are threatened with extinction in many areas because of the melting of their sea ice habitat. The groups say greenhouse gas emissions have led to rapid melting in the Arctic.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, facing a court deadline because of the groups' earlier lawsuit, had announced Wednesday that polar bears would be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act...But he rejected the addition of broad steps to reduce greenhouse gases, saying he would not allow the Endangered Species Act to be "misused" to regulate global climate change.

Kassie Siegel, climate director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the administration's proposal "violates both logic and the law" because it did not address the primary threat to polar bears.


Read More, See More Photos and Read the Comments . . . CLICK HERE

Groups renew legal challenge to save polar bear


This Monday, May 22, 2006 file photo
provided by Mary Sage shows a polar bear
watching a whaling crew off shore near Barrow, Alaska.
(AP / Courtesy of Mary Sage, Joseph Napaaqtuq Sage)

Groups renew legal challenge to save polar bear

Updated Wed. May. 21 2008 8:11 AM ET
The Associated Press ANCHORAGE, Alaska

Conservation groups have returned to court to challenge the Bush administration's response to efforts to help save the polar bear.

In court documents filed late last week, the conservation groups argue that U.S. officials are violating the Endangered Species Act for refusing to take steps against global warming.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and other groups are asking a U.S. federal judge to reject limited Interior Department actions that were announced last week.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, facing a court deadline because of the groups' earlier lawsuit, announced last week that polar bears would be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Among the steps he proposed to help them were increasing research and working with Canada to help the bears survive in the wild.

But he rejected the addition of broad steps to reduce greenhouse gases, saying he would not allow the Endangered Species Act to be "misused'' to regulate global climate change.

Polar bears are threatened with extinction in many areas because of the melting of their sea ice habitat. The groups say greenhouse gas emissions have led to rapid melting in the Arctic.

Kassie Siegel, climate director for the CBD, said the administration's proposal "violates both logic and the law'' because it did not address the primary threat to polar bears.

The listing of polar bears under the law is significant, she acknowledged, but the groups want them classified as endangered, a more serious category than threatened.

Joining in the court case were Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council. They announced their new federal court filing on Tuesday.

A message left with the Department of the Interior in Washington was not immediately returned.

Kempthorne said Americans deserve an honest assessment of the costs and benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Quoting President George W. Bush, he said the decision should not be left to "unelected regulators and judges'' who enforce the Endangered Species Act. He also said any real solution requires action by all major world economies.

Read More, See More Photos and Read the Comments . . . CLICK HERE

Friday, May 16, 2008

Polar bear not threatened, Canadian panel finds



Polar bear not threatened, Canadian panel finds

Randall Palmer, Reuters
Published: Friday, April 25, 2008; OTTAWA

The polar bear is in trouble in Canada because of overhunting and global warming, but it is not endangered or threatened with extinction, an independent committee advising the Canadian government said Friday. The committee gave the fabled Arctic animals the weakest classification, that of "special concern," but the Canadian government would nonetheless have to develop a management plan to protect them if it agrees with the new label.

Based on the best available information at hand, there was insufficient reason to think that the polar bear was at imminent risk of extinction said Jeffrey Hutchings, chairman of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.


"That's not to say that it's not in trouble. A special-concern species is a species at risk in Canada and requires legislative action should the government decide to include this species on the legal list."

Canada has an estimated 15,500 polar bears, roughly two-thirds of the global population. Disappearing summer sea ice is causing a decline in numbers in some areas but other regions are stable and in some the population is rising.

Hutchings said that in addition to global warming and too much hunting, oil and gas activity was also hurting the population.

Federal Environment Minister John Baird has three months to decide on a response. But he said in a statement: "Our government believes that the polar bear is an iconic symbol of Canada. As such, we also believe we have a responsibility to ensure its population is strong and its future is certain." The stronger "threatened" status, if adopted, would have required prohibitions like bans on hunting and destruction of habitat, but Canada's Arctic Inuit people say hunting should continue.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the polar bear as a threatened species but has declined so far to formally do so. Hutchings said he understood it has postponed its decision till the end of June.

The U.S. Geological Survey said last September that two-thirds of the world's polar bears could be gone by mid-century if predictions of melting sea ice hold true.

The Canadian environmental group David Suzuki Foundation said five of Canada's 13 polar bear populations were thought to be in decline. The western Hudson Bay population declined by 22% between 1987 and 2004, it said.

The group called for tougher action to combat global warming in addition to a formal listing under the Species at Risk Act.

Citing dramatic declines in sea ice due to global warming, the United States yesterday declared the polar bear a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act.

The decision was immediately condemned by the territorial government of Nunavut as "based on misinformed public opinion which disregarded sound science and Inuit traditional knowledge."

The announcement by the U. S. Department of Interior came within hours of a court-ordered deadline to make a decision.

Environmental groups had sought that order through a lawsuit they brought after the Department missed its own deadline in January.

"Although the population of bears has grown from a low of about 12,000 in the late 1960s to approximately 25,000 today, our scientists advise me that computer modelling projects a significant population decline by the year 2050," Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne told a news conference yesterday. "This, in my judgment, makes the polar bear a threatened species -- one likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future."

Before announcing the decision, Mr. Kempthorne met last week with Canada's Environment Minister John Baird and Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit orgnanization, and pledged to work together "to ensure that this majestic creature thrives now and in the future."

Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik said yesterday the unintended consequences of the U. S. decision will be "economic hardship in traditional Inuit communities" due to reduced revenue from guiding and outfitting hunting parties. But he said the current quota system for the sport hunt will not be affected, because it was not based on market demand to begin with, but on "a combination of scientific information and Inuit traditional knowledge."

He said his government would have to review the ruling before deciding on a response.

With photogenic cubs that belie the ferocity of their parents, the polar bear --an "apex predator" in scientific terminology -- is a potent icon in the fight against climate change, and it figured prominently in Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth.

Yesterday's decision adds to the media arsenal of climate activists, but Mr. Kempthorne stressed that this designation should not be used as a proxy law to address climate change.

"Listing the polar bear as threatened can reduce avoidable losses of polar bears," Mr. Kempthorne said. "But it should not open the door to use the [Endangered Species Act] to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, power plants and other sources. That would be a wholly inappropriate use of the Endangered Species Act. ESA is not the right tool to set U. S. climate policy."

That clarification drew scorn from environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, whose director Carl Pope said the decision is "riddled with loopholes, caveats and backhanded language that could actually undermine protections for the polar bear and other species."

In Canada, the polar bear has no status under the Species at Risk Act. Last month, however, a federal advisory panel designated the polar bear a species of special concern, a less dire rating than "at risk," largely because threats to its welfare vary widely over its range.

Four of 13 Canadian subpopulations are at a high risk of declining by 30% or more over the next three bear generations (36 years), partly due to climate change "but mostly due to unsustainable harvest in Kane Basin and Baffin Bay," the panel reported. The other seven subpopulations, representing nearly half of Canada's 15,500 polar bears, "are projected to be stable or increasing."

The global population of polar bears is estimated at around 25,000, with the others distributed over Alaska, Greenland and Russia.

A key difference between the Canadian and U.S. designations is that the Canadian projections do not account for the possible effects of climate change, whereas the U. S. one is based partly on computer-model projections of sea-ice reductions. As such, it is the first time the Endangered Species Act has been used to protect an animal against threats from climate change.

"My hope is the projections from these models are wrong, and that sea ice does not further recede. But the best science available to me currently says that is not likely to happen in the next 45 years," Mr. Kempthorne said.

jbrean@nationalpost.com

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U.S. Lists Polar Bears as Threatened! - WWF Canada



The U.S. government has listed the polar bear as threatened, stating that climate change is destroying vital polar bear habitat, putting the species at risk of extinction. This puts increasing pressure on the Canadian government to recognize and act on the accelerating impacts of climate change on Arctic communities and species, including polar bears.

Why is this important?

Listing the polar bear as threatened clearly acknowledges the unfortunate fact that climate change impacts are already threatening animals and habitats, and illustrates the urgency of preparing for and adapting to a rapidly changing climate.

Further, the threatened species designation commits the U.S. government to provide additional legal protections for the bears, including the conservation of critical habitat and the development of a government-supported recovery plan.

However, yesterday’s victory will be hollow unless it prompts action by both Canada and the U.S. to limit greenhouse gas emissions, which are melting the Arctic sea ice on which polar bears rely.


What does this mean for Canada?

The U.S. decision shows that Canada is increasingly being left behind in the fight against climate change. Canada is still operating under a “business as usual” approach. The federal government is supporting accelerated development of the tar sands and is pushing oil and gas development in the Arctic, all while greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

This decision by the U.S. to list the polar bear as “Threatened” reinforces the urgency of the three actions that WWF-Canada has called on Prime Minister Harper to take:

- Place a moratorium on new industrial development in areas of high value to polar bears. In particular, stop the June 2nd leasing of areas for oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea, at least until proper planning has been done to protect sensitive habitats.

- Ensure any hunting for polar bears is fully sustainable.

- Most importantly, quickly stop, then reverse the rise in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, so we are doing our part in the global fight against climate change.


What can Canadians do?

The Canadian government has a chance to respond quickly to yesterday’s recognition of the threats to polar bears. Five huge areas in the Canada’s Beaufort Sea are poised to be leased to companies for oil and gas development. These areas include essential habitat for polar bears, belugas, and bowhead whales. Companies have until June 2nd to bid on the leases, after which the government will award development rights to the highest bidder.

Please take 20 minutes to help protect this vital habitat for belugas, bowhead whales and polar bears. Here’s what you can do, but it must be done no later than May 28:

1. Send a letter to your MP. You can send this directly, but handwritten letters are best and the more personal your letter, the more attention it will be given. Remember to send a copy to Prime Minister Harper. No postage is necessary to write to your MP.

2. Call your Member of Parliament (MP). Speak to the staff or leave a message indicating you would like the government to hold off on awarding oil and gas leases in critical polar bear habitat in and around the Beaufort Sea until management and conservation plans are in place. Always request a response from your MP.

3. Get at least one of your neighbours to write and call your MP. Ask them to join with you and WWF-Canada in this call to hold off on oil development in the Beaufort Sea.

4. Send a copy of your letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

To learn more about polar bears in Canada, visit the WWF polar bear tracker website




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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Polar bear added to U.S. threatened species list

A polar bear mother and her two cubs
walk along the shore of Hudson Bay near Churchill, Man.
(Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)


Polar bear added to U.S. threatened species list

Updated Wed. May. 14 2008 4:16 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff

On the eve of a court deadline, the U.S. Interior Department is adding the polar bear to the list of threatened species. This comes after evidence that rising temperatures are causing Arctic Sea ice -- the bears' habitat -- to vanish.

This makes the mighty polar bear the first animal to be listed as endangered or threatened as a result of global warming.

In Canada, polar bears are listed as a species of "special concern." At the moment, Canada has no plans to change the designation, but Wednesday's U.S. move might put more pressure on Environment Minister John Baird to move further on the matter. Dirk Kempthorne, the U.S. Interior Secretary, said he ordered a geological survey that shows even less sea ice this year than earlier models had predicted.

The expected decline in Arctic sea ice could wipe out two-thirds of the polar bear population by 2050. There are an estimated 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic, many of them in the 30 million acres of the Alaska's Chukchi Sea, which is due to be auctioned for oil and gas exploration.

The World Wildlife Federation and other environmentalists have been lobbying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to add polar bears to the Endangered Species Act ahead of that auction.

The U.S. Interior's report on polar bears says that since the signing of the 1973 Polar Bear Agreement between Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway and the U.S., the documented impact of the oil and gas industry on the animal has been "minimal."

However, the report acknowledges that as gas and oil operations increase, as does the possibility of an oil spill. The report says the probability of an oil spill is low but could have major effects on polar bears and their prey in the region of the spill.

The U.S. government has argued that closing the Chukchi Sea to oil and gas exploration would lead to higher fuel prices.

The decision on polar bears comes just a day before U.S. court-imposed deadline on the issue.



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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Decision on polar bears' status expected Thursday

Polar bears are expertly adapted to the Arctic
environment, and areas comfortable in the
water as they are onland. But changes to
the Arctic environment are literally happening
under their feet, as global warming melts
away the sea ice they depend on for survival.

Decision on polar bears' status expected Thursday

Updated Sun. May. 11 2008 6:14 PM ET

The Canadian Press

Canadian environmentalists and energy companies will be looking to the American government this week for a decision that will affect everything from the economy of remote northern communities to how this country's energy is sold in the U.S. After months of delay, a court order will force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare Thursday whether or not it believes polar bears are endangered.



This undated photo released by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows
a sow polar bear resting with her cubs on the
pack ice in the Beaufort Sea in northern Alaska.
(AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service, Steve Amstrup)




"It's coming to a head," said Pete Ewins of the World Wildlife Fund. "The key thing, what are they going to say?'' The wildlife service has been expected since January to make a recommendation on whether the great white bears should come under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

Tired of waiting, several American environmental organizations took the service to court over the delay and a judge has ordered it to make a ruling by Thursday.

That decision will be closely watched in Nunavut, where Inuit guides charge American hunters up to $30,000 for the privilege of shooting a polar bear. An endangered species listing would make it nearly impossible to bring trophies from such a hunt into the U.S., a restriction greatly expected to reduce the number of bear sport hunts in the Arctic. The government of Nunavut has intervened in the U.S., asking the service not to declare the bears endangered. But energy exports to the U.S. could also be affected, says Ewins. Such a listing for polar bears would commit the U.S. to not doing anything that could threaten the species further. Because the main threat to the bears is considered to be habitat loss from climate change, that could make it tougher to sell fuels that produce a higher amount of greenhouse gases, such as oil derived from Alberta's oilsands.

"U.S. programs, policies and financial measures involving the U.S. government that would further jeopardize the survival of polar bears would come under extremely strong scrutiny,'' Ewins said. "Further increases in greenhouse gases, causing the sea ice to melt, would be deemed as clearly in contravention of the Endangered Species Act.''

There have already been legislative moves in the U.S. to restrict the use of oilsands-derived oil. American environmental groups have also pressured users such as the airline industry to avoid it.

"There are huge implications here for the way fossil fuels are used and extracted,'' said Ewins.

American Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, responsible for the Fish and Wildlife service, was in Ottawa last Friday to meet with Canadian Environment Minister John Baird. Officials confirmed that polar bears were on the agenda.

Canada is also deciding what to do about the massive Arctic predator.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife In Canada recently said it would recommend the bears remain as a species of special concern. That would oblige Ottawa to address threats to the animal's survival, including climate change, but would give it until 2014 to come up with a management plan for Canada's estimated 15,000 bears.

That's a date by which some scientists believe the Arctic could be completely free of summer sea ice -- the bears' favoured hunting platform. Baird will receive the committee's report in August and will make a decision some time after that.


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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Decision ordered on polar bear status

On Monday evening (April 28, 2008)a federal judge rebuked the Bush administration for delaying a decision on whether to protect the polar bear while rushing to approve oil and gas drilling in its Arctic habitat.

Polar Bear Protection Delay Ended

Photo - Peter Spruance

In a court order issued yesterday, Judge Claudia Wilken sided with the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Greenpeace against the Bush administration. Bringing the government's irrational and illegal protection delays to an end, Wilken gave it just two weeks to decide whether to list the polar bear as an endangered species. In addition, she ordered the decision to become effective immediately instead of being delayed by the usual 30 days.

The Bush administration has been rushing out Arctic oil and gas leases at the same time it has delayed deciding whether to declare the polar bear an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Making the decision immediately effective May 15 will ensure that all future oil and gas decisions take into account the polar bear and global warming.





Photo Johnathan Hayward - Canadian Press/AP


ANCHORAGE (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the Interior Department to decide within 16 days whether polar bears should be listed as a threatened species because of global warming. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken agreed with conservation groups that the department missed a Jan. 9 deadline for a decision. She rejected a government request for a further delay and ordered it to act by May 15. "Defendants have been in violation of the law requiring them to publish the listing determination for nearly 120 days," the judge, based in Oakland, wrote in a decision issued late Monday. "Other than the general complexity of finalizing the rule.

Defendants offer no specific facts that would justify the delay, much less further delay." Allowing more time would violate the Endangered Species Act and congressional intent that time was of the essence in listing threatened species, Wilken wrote.

The ruling is a victory for conservation groups that claim the Bush administration has delayed a polar bear decision to avoid addressing global warming and to avoid roadblocks to development such as the transfer of offshore petroleum leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast to oil company bidders.

"We hope that this decision marks the end of the Bush administration's delays and denial so that immediate action may be taken to protect polar bears from extinction," Greenpeace representative Melanie Duchin said in a statement.

A decision to list polar bears due to global warming could trigger a recovery plan with consequences beyond Alaska. Opponents fear it would subject new power plants and other development projects to federal review if they generate greenhouse gasses that add to warming in the Arctic.

Representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment Tuesday morning. Assistant Interior Secretary Lyle Laverty has said the department needed until June 30 to complete a legal and policy review of the proposed listing. Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity, the lead author of the petition submitted in 2005, called the judge's order a huge victory, despite not knowing whether polar bears ultimately will be listed.

"It means that whatever political interference going on right now is going to be short-circuited," she said. "The politicians and the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., are going to have to stop interfering with the decision and get it out the door."

The law requires a decision based on science, she said, and science shows the Arctic is thawing. "The science is perfectly clear. There's no dispute. The polar bear is an endangered species," she said.

In response to the petition filed in 2005, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed in December 2006 that polar bears be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because of the loss of their primary habitat, Arctic sea ice.

Summer sea ice shrank last year to a record low, about 1.65 million square miles in September, nearly 40% less ice than the long-term average between 1979 and 2000. Some climate models have predicted the Arctic will be free of summer sea ice by 2030. A U.S. Geological Survey study generated in response to the listing petition predicted polar bears in Alaska could be wiped out by 2050.

A decision on the proposed listing was due Jan. 9, but Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall said in January that a delay was needed to make sure it came in a form easily understood. He promised a decision within a month, but that deadline also passed and the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace sued in March.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Polar bears don't need more protection yet

Two polar bears on a
chunk of ice in the arctic.
(AP) Dan Crosbie / Canadian Ice Service

Polar bears don't need more protection yet: group

The Canadian Press

Polar bears don't need stiffer laws yet to protect their numbers, says the scientific group that advises the government on endangered species.

But the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada does say climate change is a threat to the northern bear, so it continues to be a species of special concern.

The committee assessed almost three dozen plants and animals this week at a meeting in Yellowknife.

"The primary threats to the polar bear are over-harvesting in the northeastern part of its range (and) decline of the summer sea ice in parts of the southern part of its range,'' committee chairman Jeff Hutchings said Friday.

Environment Minister John Baird must accept the group's findings if polar bears are to be formally acknowledged by the government as a species of special concern. That would oblige Ottawa to address threats to the animal's survival, including climate change.

But a management plan for Canada's roughly 15,000 bears wouldn't be required until 2014 _ a date by which some scientists believe the Arctic could be completely free of summer sea ice, the bears' favoured hunting platform.

When the committee previously listed the bears under special concern in 2002, the government asked them to re-examine the issue. No management plan was created.

In Ottawa, Baird said the government will begin consulting environmentalists, scientists and wildlife managers on how to proceed after he receives the committee's report in August.

"This government cares about the future of the polar bear and as minister of the environment, I am committed to action,'' he said.

Hutchings said evidence wasn't strong enough to recommend changing the polar bear's status to either threatened or endangered.

"There was insufficient reason to think the polar bear was at imminent risk of extinction,'' he said. "That's not to say that it's not in trouble. A special concern species is a species at risk in Canada.''

The problem, said Hutchings, is in trying to calculate how melting summer sea ice correlates with declining numbers of polar bears.

"Does a 10 per cent reduction in sea ice result in a 10 per cent reduction in polar bears? There's lots of models, lots of predictions, lots of projections, and the committee felt that there is still sufficient uncertainty...to determine how precisely polar bears might be affected by reductions in sea ice.''

Hutchings said some bear populations are in decline, but some are stable and some are actually growing.

However, Pete Ewins of the World Wildlife Fund pointed out that seven of Canada's 13 populations are either in decline or showing signs of stress such as reduced body weight.

Ewins called the committee's recommendation not to change the polar bear's status "an easy way out.''

"This is like steady-as-she-goes Canada, when in fact inactivity now will forclose all its opportunities. We'll be lucky if there aren't regional extinctions by the time the government gets around to this wonderful management plan.

"The regular man on the street knows that in places where the ice is disappearing fast, this isn't just of special concern. It is an urgent crisis.''

The Canadian discussion on the polar bear's status mirrors a similar debate in the United States, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is deciding whether to declare the animals endangered. That decision, expected last January, has now been put off until June.

In all, the committee examined 31 species of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants. Fourteen species, eight of them plants, were given a more serious rating.

The ferruginous hawk, native to the Prairies, was upgraded to threatened from special concern, while two populations of the eastern foxsnake in Ontario are now considered endangered.






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Monday, April 21, 2008

Showdown looming

Showdown looming over polar bear hunt quota


The Canadian Press, Apr. 20 2008


Inuit hunters are bracing for another showdown this week with government wildlife scientists, this time over how many polar bears they'll be allowed to kill from one of Canada's largest populations of the iconic predator.

Scientists say the bears of Baffin Bay have been overhunted for years -- partly by Greenlanders -- and they will argue at hearings beginning Tuesday in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, that the number of valuable tags for the animals should be cut by 40 per cent, if not eliminated.

But Inuit say the bears are fine and that researchers haven't even counted them in more than a decade. They point to a recent admission that scientists drastically underestimated bowhead whales in the Arctic as a reason to be skeptical of bear estimates.


Some say if they're cut off from harvesting an animal they depend on for food and clothing, they'll ignore regulations and shoot as many bears as they need.

"We don't believe the scientists' information any more,'' said Jayko Alooloo, head of the Hunters and Trappers Organization in Pond Inlet, one of the three communities along the east shore of Baffin Island that hunts the bears. "(Hunters) will ignore new quotas.''

The territorial government wants the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board to reduce the Baffin Bay bear quota to 64 from 105 immediately and consider reducing it further or eliminating it.

The last time anyone counted -- in 1997 -- there were 2,100 polar bears along the area's mountainous coast and rugged sea ice.

But Nunavut increased hunting quotas in 2004. And the year after that, Greenland revealed its hunters had been taking more than twice as many bears as previously thought.

Computer models suggest the population is now 1,500 -- almost a 30 per cent drop.

Nonsense, says Alooloo.

The survey is too old. As well, scientists look for bears in the wrong places at the wrong times.

Hunters north of Pond Inlet routinely see several bears a day, Alooloo said.

"My brother-in-law, he's seen six bears in a day,'' he said. "They always see the bears and the tracks. That's why we don't believe the government. We know they're increasing every year.''

Alooloo points to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' recent admission that, far from being threatened, bowhead whales have in fact returned to the numbers they enjoyed before commercial harvesting -- just as Inuit elders insisted all along.

"That's the same thing with the polar bear,'' said Alooloo.

Scientific information has to be combined with traditional knowledge to develop hunting quotas, he said.

Steve Pinksen of Nunavut's environment department defends the scientific estimates, saying bears are much easier to number than whales.

"To assume that because one is wrong they're all wrong is not a fair conclusion. We do have what we feel is a fairly accurate population survey system.''

Greenland has acknowledged the problem and drastically cut its quotas, Pinksen said.

Ian Stirling, a retired Environment Canada polar bear researcher, said bear sightings are misleading because hunters naturally go to the best habitat. Population declines would start at the margins, he said.

"I don't think hunters would see changes in numbers of polar bears in the kind of travelling they do,'' he said.

Other pressures could increase human-bear contacts.

"It could be the ice is melting earlier in Baffin Bay and (the bears) are coming ashore a little bit hungrier and looking for an alternate food source.''

In fact, Stirling said a recent survey of hunters suggested about 57 per cent of them felt bears were thinner than they used to be.

Still, Inuit are feeling increasingly beset by southerners telling them how to manage what they feel are their animals, said Colin Saunders, Pond Inlet's economic development officer.

"Sometimes, scientists do need to listen to Inuit people more,'' he said.

Inuit hunters are also frustrated by forces outside their control, such as anti-sealing campaigns in Europe and the American effort to declare polar bears an endangered species.

"There are people who would rather generate an income from being out on the land rather than a nine-to-five job,'' Saunders said.

"There are people who still want to hunt. That's just in them.''

Although a polar bear tag is worth up to $25,000 to a sport hunter, Alooloo said they will be cut off if the reduced quotas are imposed. Inuit needs will come first, as bear meat provides needed variety from seal and fish and the hide makes warm clothes.

"It's Inuit food, like cows for southern people,'' Alooloo said.

"It's going to be like cutting off our hunters' arm if the NWMB decreases our quota.''



Photo by Canadian Press

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Interior secretary dodges hearing

Interior secretary dodges hearing

Kempthorne Hides, Center Testifies (and Sues); at Yesterday's Congressional Polar Bear Hearing
Kassie Siegel, the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate, Air, and Energy Program director, testified as a legal and global warming expert at the April 2 Senate hearing on the Bush administration's refusal to list the polar bear as an endangered species. Siegel blasted Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for rushing to sell oil leases in polar bear habitat while illegally delaying the protection decision.Kempthorne brazenly refused to attend the hearing, but told reporters that he would continue to delay the decision until early summer. Good luck with that, Mr. Kempthorne: the Center, NRDC, and Greenpeace filed a summary judgment motion yesterday to fast-track our suit to end the delay.

Anchorage Daily News

POLAR BEAR STATUS: Senate panel inquires about 3-month delay.

By ERIKA BOLSTAD
ebolstad@adn.com

Published: April 3rd, 2008 12:46 AM
Last Modified: April 3rd, 2008 10:18 AM

WASHINGTON -- Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne was a no-show Wednesday in front of a Senate committee seeking an explanation for why his agency has been slow to decide whether to list polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Kempthorne, summoned in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, refused to testify. Instead, he sent a letter and spoke personally to several of the committee members. He also pledged to testify once he had issued a decision, now three months late.

"Careful deliberation will not imperil the survival of the polar bear, it will better ensure that the decision is legally sound and based upon the best available science and the requirements of the law," Kempthorne wrote in his letter.

But that was not enough for the committee's chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, who said she was "disappointed" with Kempthorne's behavior -- especially since he had been on the panel while in the Senate. Boxer scolded Kempthorne's record on endangered species designations, pointing out that he had yet to classify a single species as endangered during his tenure as interior secretary.

"The Bush administration does not have the right or the discretion to decide to not carry out the law," Boxer said. "I guess maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I always learned that when laws are passed by Congress, and signed by the president, they must be obeyed. But that's not what's happening here."

ACTS PRESSED BY LAWSUITS

Every step of the process toward listing the bears as threatened has required environmentalists to file lawsuits to persuade the administration to act, said Kassie Siegel at the Center for Biological Diversity. There is still time to do something about bears, Siegel said, "but the window to act is now."

Some Republican members of the panel said they were concerned about the effects of listing polar bears, since the animals are losing their habitat because of global warming caused by worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

The hearing was not about "protecting the bear," said Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the committee. Rather, it was about using the Endangered Species Act to "achieve global warming policy that special interest groups can not otherwise achieve through the legislative process."

"The ESA is simply not equipped to regulate economy-wide greenhouse gases, nor does the Fish and Wildlife Service have the expertise to be a pollution control agency," he said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, which is overseen by the Interior Department, first proposed in 2007 to list polar bears, at the prompting of environmental groups. The agency was scheduled to issue a decision on polar bears at the beginning of January, but postponed it because its scientists needed more time to analyze studies from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Those government studies show that as many as two-thirds of the world population of the bears could disappear by mid-century as their habitat melts, leaving a small population of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. Bears could disappear from U.S. waters, including the Chukchi Sea, where the Interior Department recently issued $2.7 billion in oil and gas leases.

Environmentalists complained at Wednesday's hearing that the timing of the leases remains suspect. And Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. accused the administration of dragging its feet on a polar bear decision so that leases could "sneak in" before an endangered species listing held them up.

"It looks a little bit to this observer as if the endangered species determination was slow walked on purpose," Whitehouse said.

Kempthorne in his letter downplayed any connection between the delays in listing polar bears and the recent oil leases in the Chukchi Sea. The threat to the polar bear is "receding sea ice," Kempthorne wrote, and oil and gas activities "do not threaten the species throughout all or a significant portion of its range."

Kempthorne also wrote that if the polar bear is listed, any oil and gas exploration and development would be subject to the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws governing such activity in protected habitat.


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Friday, March 14, 2008

Three Groups Sue Over Polar Bears

Polar Bear Protection Delay Challenged

Though federal scientists have shown that global warming is driving polar bears extinct, the Bush administration is illegally delaying a decision on whether to place the snowy icon in the federal endangered species list. To end the delay, the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council took the administration to court on March 10th. It is the second time the Center has been forced to sue the administration since filing a scientific petition to protect the polar bear in 2005.

Polar bears live only in the Arctic and are dependent on sea ice for all their essential needs. The rapid warming and melting of the Arctic poses an overwhelming threat to the species, which could become the first mammal to lose 100 percent of its habitat to global warming.

Read the report from TIME Magazine below.


Visit the Polar Bear Web Page of the Center for Biological Diversity



TIME Magazine

Friday, March 14, 2008 By AP/DAN JOLING



(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) — Three conservation groups sued the Department of the Interior on Monday for missing a deadline on a decision to list polar bears as threatened because of the loss of Arctic sea ice.

A decision was due Jan. 9, one year after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the animals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Agency Director Dale Hall said in January that officials needed a few more weeks to make a decision. But two months later, no decision has been announced.

Polar bears depend on sea ice for hunting seals, denning and giving birth. Conservation groups claim the loss of sea ice due to global warming is accelerating.

"Doing nothing means extinction for the polar bear. That's what the administration is doing — nothing," said Kassie Siegel, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity and the lead author of the 2005 petition that sought the listing.

Her group, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace Inc. asked the federal court in San Francisco to order administration officials to make the decision.

Hall said in January he did not like missing the deadline but, "It is far more important to us to do it right and have it explained properly to the public."

Bruce Woods, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman in Anchorage, said he could not comment on pending legal action. "We are still working as fast as we can to get the decision announced," he said.

Alaska has the only two polar bear populations in the United States: the Beaufort Sea group off the state's north coast and the Chukchi Sea group, shared with Russia, off Alaska's northwest coast.

Summer sea ice in Alaska last year shrunk to about 1.65 million square miles last year, the lowest level in 38 years of satellite record-keeping and nearly 40 percent less ice than the long-term average between 1979 and 2000. Some climate models have predicted the Arctic will be free of summer sea ice by 2030. A U.S. Geological Survey study predicted polar bears in Alaska could be wiped out by 2050.

A decision to list polar bears due to global warming could trigger consequences beyond Alaska.

Opponents fear a recovery plan would subject projects such as new power plants to review if they generate greenhouse gases that add to warming in the Arctic. Conservation groups hope that's the case.

"We believe if and when the polar bear is listed, all federal agencies approving major sources of greenhouse gas emissions will have to look at ways to reduce those emissions to protect polar bears," Siegel said.

Last week, the Interior Department's inspector general said it was beginning a preliminary investigation into why the department had not made a decision.

The inquiry was opened in response to environmental groups and would determine whether a full-fledged investigation was warranted, the department said.




Photo from Center for Biological Diversity

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Perfect Innocence of Nature

This story happened recently in the province of Manitoba, in Canada and was documented by a photographer.




Siberiam Huskies were peacefully pulling a dog sled when
a starving PolarBear appeared from nowhere.




But for the friendly Huskies the Polar Bear just wanted to . . . play.






















And still there are people that think that peace is impossible.


See a video about a Polar Bear and a Husky playing



Translation - Henrique Ribeiro







Photos by Norbert Rosing, German Wildlife Phtographer


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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Center for Biological Diversity



Your gift can help the Center send a wake up call to millions of Americans.
Help us show them what must be done to save polar bears and the Arctic.






Photo by Pete Spruance


The Center for Biological Diversity, located in Tucson, Arizona has an excellent campaign to raise funds to help inform the public about the plight of the Polar Bears. They have an excellent track record in pursing the protection of Polar Bears and their Habitat. Consider becoming a member of the very worthy Organization. Become a Biodiversity Activist. See the sidebar for links to their website.




Click on thephoto of the Polar Bear to go to the website for the Center for Biological Diversity to donate to the cause.


Photos - By permission from Center for Biological Diversity

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Polar Bear Habitat Receives Record Number of Bids

Polar Bear Habitat Receives Record Number of Bids

Lawsuit to Stop Sell-off of Millions of Acres of Polar Bear Habitat



On January 31 the Center for Biological Diversity and allies took the Bush administration to court over its plan to sell 30 million acres of prime polar bear habitat for oil and gas development in the Chukchi Sea. The action comes in response to the administration's fast-tracking of oil lease sales as it delays a final Endangered Species Act listing decision for the polar bear.



The lawsuit maintains that the administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act in approving the oil lease sales off Alaska's coast in the Chukchi Sea.


Read more in CNSnews below




By Monisha Bansal
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
February 06, 2008

Royal Dutch Shell was the highest bidder for leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast. The federal Minerals Management Service will take about 90 days to review bids.

The Minerals Management Service received a record number of bids for oil and gas exploration in the Chukchi Sea on Wednesday, land that is home to 20 percent of the world's polar bears.

Environmental groups have challenged the sale. They say the Bush administration delayed classifying the polar bear as an endangered species until the sale could be completed. The official deadline for classification was Jan. 9, 2008, but the Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to make a decision.


Robin Cacy, public affairs officer for the Minerals Management Service, told Cybercast News Service that the lease received 667 bids and the final lessee will be announced by 3 p.m. Alaska Standard Time.

"Companies have expressed a great deal of interest in the Chukchi Sea area," she said. "The area has got the potential for a large number of reserves for oil and gas, and I believe industry is interested in looking for that resource for the nation," she said.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) told Cybercast News Service: "The domestic oil and natural gas this region can provide for the American people is significant. With an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil and 77 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the Chukchi lease sale has the potential of significantly reducing our growing dependence on foreign sources of energy from the Middle East and Venezuela."

"This significant source of domestic energy has justifiably received an extremely large amount of interest with a record number of bids being submitted to the Minerals Management Service for an Alaskan OCS sale," he said.

"The administration has taken a significant step toward helping our nation address the national security problems associated with an over-reliance on foreign governments for energy, and this will provide a major stimulus to our national economy," Young added.

Kassie Siegel, climate program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, however, said, "The companies that are bidding are on notice that we believe the sale is being conducted illegally because a lawsuit has been filed challenging that sale."

She told Cybercast News Service that her organization filed a lawsuit last week to contest the sale.

"We don't think they should have held the sale," she said. "We don't think the sale should go forward until they fully analyze the environmental impacts, and that hasn't been done.

"Once they hold the sale it's very likely that changing their minds will involve a very expensive buyout by the taxpayers, and there is no reason for that," said Siegel. "There is no legal deadline for the sale, but there is a legal deadline for the polar bear finding, and they are missing that deadline."

Cacy, however, noted that the litigation could not change results of the sale.

"Selling off our natural heritage to the highest bidder is a sad spectacle and represents a step backwards in our efforts to save the irreplaceable Arctic and the magnificent polar bears for future generations," said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in a statement.

"We already know the future of the polar bear in the arctic is tenuous due to global warming," said Margaret Williams, WWF's director of the Bering Sea Program.




Cybercast News Service. "There is a concerted attempt to block all new oil production. I think it's promising that they've actually been able to push this one through. I think it's important that they keep opening up these offshore places until Congress opens up ANWR," the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.




Photos by Urso Branco

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Northern oil drilling will hurt polar bears

Two polar bears on a chunk of ice in the arctic.
(AP / Dan Crosbie / Canadian Ice Service)

Northern oil drilling will hurt polar bears: WWF

Thu. Feb. 7 2008 - CTV.ca News Staff

Canada's decision to open bidding for the rights to drill in the northern Beaufort Sea will destroy a large area of critical polar bear habitat and put the animal's future in danger, the World Wildlife Foundation said Thursday.




"These are areas where polar bears and bowhead whales and beluga whales and who knows what else call home," Dr. Peter Ewins, WWF Canada's director, told CTV.ca on Thursday. "Clearly these areas are important, perhaps critical, habitat for the pressured polar bears."

The rights to oil and gas exploration on more than 2.9 million acres of continental shelf in the Beaufort Sea, north of the Yukon and Northwest Territories, were recently offered up by the Canadian government. Bids will be accepted until June 2, when the rights will be issued.

On Wednesday, the U.S. government began selling similar property in Alaska. More than $2.6 billion was offered for the purchase of 2.7 million acres of the continental shelf in the Chukchi Sea. In the next few days, the U.S. is expected to decide whether to add polar bears to its Endangered Species Act -- a decision Ewins said was postponed in order to give the U.S. government time to sell more land.

Ewins said the Beaufort and Chukchi seas are the "last conventional oil and gas frontiers" left for development.The governments are rushing to open oil drilling now because they will not be allowed to if the polar bear is declared endangered, he said. "They're trying to sneak in as many of these oil and gas sales as possible before the polar bear gets listed as threatened," he said.

If the polar bear is listed as threatened, the onus would be on a developer to ensure their actions do not interfere with the animal's habitat. With polar bears on the verge of being placed on the endangered species list, Ewins said this could be the tipping point.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada is currently assessing the animal's status and will announce its decision in April. If they deem it a threatened species, Species at Risk will have a 180-day window to develop recovery plans. Those plans could include habitat protection in the Beaufort Sea.

Ewins said it would be too late to stop any sales completed on June 2 -- possibly worth more than $2 billion to the federal government. "It's great if you're the finance minister, but not so good if you're interested in polar bears, like most Canadians are," he said.

Critics say the government should wait for reports on the polar bear's health before letting gas companies into their habitat. Meanwhile, Manitoba declared that the polar bear was an endangered species in the province on Thursday. Conservation Minister Stan Struthers said Manitoba's government would protect polar bear habitat in the province and continue combat climate change. "We must continue to take action to protect one of our province's most unique species which is clearly being affected by climate change," said Struthers.

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Greenpeace Polar bear paddle boat protest

Greenpeace activist Tom Wetterer
dressed in polar bear costume
is arrested by outside the US Department of the Interior.


Bush Administration delaying listing as endangered

01 February 2008

Washington, DC, United States — What's a polar bear to do? Your ice is melting, politicians won't listen, and the government is dragging its feet about listing you as endangered... Off to Washington, to start your own floating vigil! Uh oh, here comes the fuzz.

OK, it was one of our activists in a costume - peacefully protesting the Bush Administration's delay in issuing a final Endangered Species Act listing for the polar bear due to global warming. Yesterday, the activist, dressed in a polar bear suit, sat quietly in a paddleboat in a park pond in front of the Department of Interior. (Until the police took him to jail, where he remains as of writing.)




Full steam ahead for new oil

While the Department of Interior is dragging their feet on protecting polar bears, they are moving full steam ahead on plans to drill for oil in prime polar bear habitat. New oil leases are opening up in the Chukchi Sea and oil companies are lining up quickly to obtain licenses to drill. A fifth of the remaining Arctic polar bears depend on Chukchi Sea ice in their hunt for food.

In December of 2005, Greenpeace and two other conservation groups sued the Bush administration when it missed its first legal deadline to respond to the petition for an endangered species listing. On December 27, 2006, the Service announced its proposal to list the species as "threatened" and had one year to make a final listing decision. The legal deadline for doing so was January 9, 2008.

Every week it seems there is new evidence that the sea ice is melting and that the polar bear’s habitat is disappearing. The US Geological Survey released a report this past September predicting that if current warming projections continue, two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will likely be extinct by 2050, including all of the polar bears in Alaska. With a timeline like that, it is hard to understand how the polar bears aren’t already protected.

Why Listing is So Important?

If the polar bears were listed under the United States Endangered Species Act - a safety net for plants and animals on the brink of extinction - they would be granted a broad range of protection. The protection would include a requirement that United States federal agencies ensure that any action carried out, authorized, or funded by the United States government will not "jeopardize the continued existence" of polar bears, or adversely modify their critical habitat.


Take Action with Greenpeace

Tell the US Congress not to wait for Bush - promote solutions to global warming now.


This article is reproduced from Greenpeace



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Center for Biological Diversity (and allies) Lawsuit


Suit Filed to Save 30 Million Acres of Polar Bear Habitat



On January 31 the Center for Biological Diversity and allies challenged the Bush administration's plan to sell 30 million acres of prime polar bear habitat to the oil and gas industry. The administration has fast-tracked the oil lease sale while at the same time illegally delaying an Endangered Species Act listing decision for the bear.

In its listing proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife stated it did not have enough information to designate the polar bear's critical habitat. "If the interior secretary claims to not know what areas are essential to the conservation of the polar bear, then he certainly cannot sell off huge tracks of polar bear habitat to oil companies and claim it will have no impact on the species," said Kassie Siegel, climate program director for the Center.

The oil and gas development is slated to occur in an area that provides crucial habitat not only for polar bears, but also endangered bowhead whales, gray whales, Pacific walrus, ribbon seals, threatened spectacled eiders, and other marine birds and fish. Read more from Reuters!




Groups sue to block Alaska oil drilling plan

* Reuters
* Thursday January 31 2008

By Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Environmental groups sued the Bush administration on
Thursday to stop plans to allow oil and natural gas drilling in the icy Chukchi Sea off Alaska, which they claim will endanger polar bears.

The U.S. Interior Department plans to lease about 30 million acres of land in the Chukchi Sea -- home to about 10 percent of the world's polar bear population -- on Feb. 6. Environmental groups including the National Audubon Society, National Resources Defense Council(The Earth's Best Defense) and Earthjustice (Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer) filed suit in a federal court along with Alaska native groups to stop the lease sale -- which the federal government has put on a fast track for action. The Chukchi Sea is one of the few "frontier areas" where new oil and natural gas deposits can be found in North America, and could hold 15 billion barrels of oil, according to the Minerals Management Service, which oversees oil and gas leasing for the Interior Department.

Plaintiffs in the suit claim drilling will endanger polar bears, along with bowhead whales, gray whales, Pacific walrus, ribbon seals, threatened spectacled eiders, and other marine birds and fish.

"The only thing keeping pace with the drastic melting of the Arctic sea ice is the breakneck speed with which the Department of Interior is rushing to sell off polar bear habitat for fossil fuel development," said Brendan Cummings, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs.A spokesman for the Minerals Management Service declined to comment.

A key decision on whether to list the big Arctic bear as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act is due in coming weeks from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which could coincide with the lease sale.

Earlier this month, MMS director Randall Luthi told a congressional panel that the risk to the bears from oil drilling would be negligible. If the oil sales went through before a decision was reached on the polar bears, there would be "an additional layer of consultation" with conservation officials as oil and gas companies worked in the area, Luthi said.

World polar bear populations are currently stable, but U.S. scientists estimate that two-thirds of them could be gone by 2050 if predictions about melting sea ice hold true. Polar bears live and hunt on sea ice; when it melts, they either drown or are forced onto land, where they are inefficient hunters.

This is the first time global warming has been a factor in arguing for "threatened" status for any species in the United States, and that makes the decision more complex.

(Editing by Russell Blinch and by Matthew Lewis)

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Churchill: A Town Under Siege - by Anne Gordon

Two young bears after a swim in the near freezing waters of Hudson Bay.


For six weeks from mid October through to the end of November, Churchill, in Canada's remote north, becomes a town under siege.

Its local population swells from 900 Churchillians to a whopping 10,000; the attraction, the annual migration to the sea ice of the world's largest, most ferocious land predators.



Each year at this time a polar bear migration that dates back thousands of years is set in motion as the waters along the western coast of Hudson Bay begin to freeze. With an inborn instinct, polar bears, scattered for hundreds of miles across the tundra, sense this change.Having fasted on a diet of berries, kelp and grasses for close to three months, the siren call of the ice is irresistible. Prompted by a gnawing hunger for meat the ravenous bears are enticed by the prospects of a feed they favour above all else; the soft tender flesh of ringed seal pups.

Standing up to three and a half meters tall at full stretch, the largest weighing in at 675 kilograms, these magnificent killing machines move across glacial rock and tundra from their southern stamping grounds for the town that just happens to be on the direct route to the sea ice.


A curious bear is drawn to investigate the delectable odours
emanating from the Tundra Buggy.
With a sense of smell twenty times stronger
than that of a human, not much escapes his attention.



As they approach, Churchill, with years of polar bear encounters, prepares its defences. Sirens are tested, extra rangers from around the country are brought in to patrol the town's boundaries and divert the invaders. The polar bear jail is readied and rifles are loaded with cracker shells . . . . a big bang causing no physical damage.

There was a period in the '70s when any poar bear wandering into town was shot. Not so today.

Bears that slip into town after managing to evade the ´polar bear police´ on the town's outskirts are either darted or lured into a trap baited with delectably fragrant cloth doused in whale or seal oil. From there the bears are transported to the ´polar bear jail', a huge metal enclosure just steps from Churchill's Lilliputian airport

On my recent visit to Churchill for a bear watching safari, the jail was already temporary home to ten miscreants. In 2005, 58 polar bears passed through its accommodations. The polar bears, kept in a cubicle in solitary confinement for 30 days, are fed a diet (or non-diet) that can only be described as bland. No seal meat, no whale blubber, not even a kelp snack, only water in the form of snow.

Life in the jail was not always so spartan for these gigantic carnivores. At first bears were given 'tasty meals', but then the town soon discovered its mistake. The wily animals returned the following year for a comfortable wait and regular feeding at 'Hotel Polar Bear'(the jail)until the waters of Hudson Bay froze over allowing them to hunt. It seemed that hard labour was the only answer.

Most frequently in the past the bears highway into town was via Button Street ending up opposite the Lazy Bear Lodge in the town's center. Disturbed at the thought - I was staying at the Lazy Bear Lodge - I asked Jerry our guide what to expect should I see a bear sneaking out from one of the alleys lining the main street. "Don't worry" he said. "If you see a bear just give it a wide berth! Once they reach town the stimuli usually confuses them. Houses and cars are left unlocked during the bear season so just duck into the nearest door or flag down a car."

Was it any consolation to hear that problem bears, those that return again and again, are sedated and shipped out of town in a cradle hanging beneath a helicopter?

Indeed it was. Doped and disoriented, delinquent bears are deposited in a more northerly area close to the sea ice. The cost of this punishment, starting ta $5,000 a time, is borne by the Churchillians. A fund, kept in the black by film crews who want to photograph an evacuation, lessens the burden with a constant inflow of photography fees.

As I snuggled deep into my duvet in The Lazy Bear Lodge that first night on Canada's wild frontier, my thoughts drifted back to the day's polar bear safari on the tundra.

On a viewing platform at the back of the giant tundra buggy I had a nose to nose encounter with a massive male polar bear. He had stretched himself full length against the side of the buggy to get a better view of us on the platform. Just feet apart, my camera trained on his face, I looked into apair of dangerously intelligent eyes. They were dark brown edged with a milky halo. He hissed softly as he watched me. As I looked back at him through my camera lens I felt almost hypnotized.

He was what Jarret, our driver, called a 'real pretty bear', but the truth is that this huge, fluffy, cuddly looking animal with its gentle dog-like face could and would, given the opportunity,crush a human head with its powerful jaws in seconds. A representative from the Polar Bears International organization showed us exactly how in a demonstration with Jarret, our driver, acting as polar bear lunch. Using a bear skull to illustrate the nears modus operandi, she opened the jaws then clamped them over Jarret's head.

Jarret Long, our Tundra Buggy driver, in a demonstration
showing a polar bear's mode of attack
once it has pulled a seal from it's breathing hole on the sea ice.



Meanwhile, back in the Lazy Bear Lodge the sharp report of cracker shells throughout the dark night reminded me that it was dangerous out there. On patrol 24/7 rangers touring the town's perimeter and equipped with spotlights, illuminate dark spaces where polar bears could be hiding.

Should a bear be seen in town, the eerie wail of a siren alerts the townspeople.

Thinking back on this incredible days on Canada's Arctic tundra, I couldn't help fear for the future of these magnificent beasts. The polar bear population has dwindled to around 25,000 and the alarm bell is tolling for their survival. Because of global warming, the sea ice id forming later each year. The bears are having to fast up to three weeks longer. Spending less time on the ice means the bears are unable to hunt and build up the body reserves necessary for the summer months on land.

There is a danger according to Lara Hansen, a scientist with the World Wildlife Fund, 'that bears could become so thin by 2012 they may no longer be able to reproduce." Without a determined effort to control this mounting problem this could be the century that polar bears become a memory, a tragic loss for humanity.


Guide Jerry Anderson takes members of a tour group
past the polar bear jail on the edge of town.







Anne Gordon and James Gordon are travel writers based in Guelph, ON, Canada

This article has been included here in its entirety. It was copied from DEL Condominium Life, Spring issue 2007

Photographs by Anne Gordon

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