Obama Administration Lets Down Polar Bears

This is not a good move by the Obama Team.


I am not pleased with the reticence by the Obama administration, whether for the reasons stated or not, when it comes to using all the available tools to stop the dangers to the polar bear population created by global warming.  I think most people concerned with polar bears, and global warming, expected a tougher and more broad-minded approach to this matter from the Obama White House.  As stated on this blog often, we wanted and expected the Endangered Species Act to be used as a catalyst for stopping polluters that directly impact the future of the polar bears.  To offer up, as Interior Secretary Salazar did, that Congress should pass legislation setting national caps on greenhouse gases sounds great.  But when does Congress plan to act?  The problem is needing a solution now, and the Endangered Species Act was a vehicle already in place where the start of a remedy could be applied.

No, this is not a good move by the Obama team.

The federal bureaucracy that safeguards endangered species isn’t equipped to tackle climate change, Interior Department officials said yesterday — declining to protect Alaskan polar bears by cracking down on polluters in the Lower 48.

The decision, announced yesterday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, was the Obama administration’s first word on an emerging environmental question.

The 35-year-old Endangered Species Act was designed to save animals from close-by threats such as hunting, trapping and logging. But, now that U.S. species from mountainsides to tropical seas are threatened by climate change, can it be used to fight a global problem?

Salazar, upholding a decision made in the last months of the Bush administration, said no.

“The Endangered Species Act is not the appropriate tool for us to deal with what is a global issue,” Salazar said in a conference call with reporters. Instead, he said, the administration will push Congress to enact legislation setting national caps on greenhouse gases.

Polar bears were listed as threatened last year, the first time any species had been given protection primarily because of climate change. Scientists say that warming temperatures erode the bears’ sea-ice habitat. If current trends continue, three of the world’s four major populations may be extinct by 2075.

Environmental groups said this ought to trigger federal action against the source of the problem, greenhouse-gas emissions.

But yesterday, federal officials said that was impractical. They said the law requires a causal connection between a particular polar bear and a particular polluter’s emissions — an impossible task, they said, given that greenhouse gases come from factories, power plants and automobiles, many of them thousands of miles away.

“We have to have the smoking gun and the dead animal,” said Valerie Fellows, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In this case, Fellows said, agency scientists cannot prove that sort of link: “You can’t link the power plant in Florida with a dead bear in Alaska.” Officials from several industry associations used this same logic yesterday in applauding the decision.

Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they will still protect the bear from threats closer to home, such as hunting and oil and gas exploration in Alaska. They added that, for procedural reasons, rejecting the Bush administration rule would not have immediately changed the rules that apply to polar bears anyway.

But the decision could still set an important precedent, as legislation to cap greenhouse-gas emissions is still a long way from passage, and a number of other animals with climate-related problems are already on the federal docket.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is already pondering how to help two Caribbean corals dying in a warmer ocean — and this week it agreed to consider the possibility of protecting the American pika, a mountain mammal that can’t live above 77.9 degrees.

“If we were in a situation where we already had very, very strong climate legislation,” the polar bear decision would be less important, said Melanie Duchin, a Greenpeace “campaigner” in Anchorage, Alaska. “Right now, it’s a vacuum.”

Video: Thirsty Koala Bear After Australia Fire

There have been so many stories about the Koala bears that are in need following the devastating fires in Australia.  The footage below is touching, and a reminder of how fragile our environment truly is.

NYT: Sarah Palin Covered Up Polar Bear Global Warming Study

The issue of saving the polar bears has long been on my radar.  I have written about this matter here on Caffeinated Politics often.  The fact that too few average citizens understand the gravity of this matter concerns me.  But when elected officials act in callous and scientifically unsound ways I get justifiably angry.  The latest part of the polar bear story, as it relates to Sarah Palin, was printed today in the New York Times.

Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor, sought the e-mail messages of state scientists who had examined the effect of global warmingon polar bears. (Ms. Palin said the scientists had found no ill effects, and she has sued the federal government to block the listing of the bears as endangered.) An administration official told Mr. Steiner that his request would cost $468,784 to process.

When Mr. Steiner finally obtained the e-mail messages — through a federal records request — he discovered that state scientists had in fact agreed that the bears were in danger, records show.

“Their secrecy is off the charts,” Mr. Steiner said.

For the past eight years we have had a Republican White House that has undercut scientific points of view at every occasion.  From stem cell research to environmental concerns there is just no good science as far as the Republicans are concerned.  When science does not mesh with the GOP line then the reports need to be deep-sixed, or re-written to conform to the official line for big business and social conservatives.  But to read that the ‘reformer’ Sarah Palin also engages in such activity………….who could image?

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Gov. Sarah Palin Wrong On Polar Bears Too

I think it is our duty to protect animals that are in danger of extinction due to our encroachment on their territory, and also as a result of global warming.  As such I have been a strong advocate of polar bears being listed under the Endangered Species Act.  Anyone who has reviewed any of the material in an objective fashion understands what is happening to the habitat of the polar bear due to our actions.  Based on all the scientific research it is a no-brainer to place the polar bear on this list.

However it probably should not surprise my readers that Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Governor Sarah Palin thinks just the opposite.  She likes to remind everyone that she is ‘pro-life’, and have people think she is this super caring Christian lady.  But when it comes to saving God’s creatures she seems more interested in oil money and the petroleum fat cats.  Hmm….sounds like any other typical conservative Republican.

In January 2008 she had a column printed in the New York Times OP-ED pages.

This month, the secretary of the interior is expected to rule on whether polar bears should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. I strongly believe that adding them to the list is the wrong move at this time. My decision is based on a comprehensive review by state wildlife officials of scientific information from a broad range of climate, ice and polar bear experts.

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, has argued that global warming and the reduction of polar ice severely threatens the bears’ habitat and their existence. In fact, there is insufficient evidence that polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct within the foreseeable future — the trigger for protection under the Endangered Species Act. And there is no evidence that polar bears are being mismanaged through existing international agreements and the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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Endangered Species Fight Against Global Warming

I melted at the sight on the cover of Newsweek that James brought in from the postbox.  Readers here know I have a love affair with bears be they in the arctic, or the fields back home.   Newsweek has a must read article on a major issue facing those of us who want to assist animals that are being harmed as a result of global warming.  While polar bears have been the ‘poster animal’ for this cause recently, they are by no means the only species to suffer from the effects of our mishandling of the environment.  The recent court victory on behalf of the polar bears, that forced the Bush Administration to admit that global warming was impacting this species, was brilliant work from environmental activists. 

As Newsweek writer Jerry Adler writes this court decision is a big one.

…if global warming is threatening the polar bear’s habitat, the government could be forced to crack down on greenhouse-gas emissions, a step that environmentalists consider vital to the survival even of species that live in houses and would never dream of biting the head off a walrus.

Can’t you see big business wetting their pants?  Tough!  With all the ways that the Bush Administration has looked out for the financial interests of the companies, why not have activists look out for the animals?  Someone needs to.

The conservatives and monied business interests would like to paint the ‘use’ of the polar bear as a way to extract some concessions from the Bush White House on global warming as a sinister political act.  In fact, it was just good politics, and also might I add, it was also the moral thing to do.  There is a duty that we have as stewards of the earth to insure that these species not be eliminated due to our greed.  Need I remind anyone that  Bush and Company have been almost alone in the world community to not recognize the impact of global warming.  Shocking, isn’t it?

To wind up in federal court is the fate of much of American wildlife now. One might well ask whether the term “wildlife” has any meaning when the creature in question is tracked by satellite across its designated swath of critical habitat that’s been drawn up by negotiation among bureaucrats who wouldn’t recognize a flattened musk turtle if it landed in their soup. Even the majestic polar bear, roaming the far reaches of the Arctic, is exhibit A in lawsuits planned by conservation groups aimed at getting the government to act more aggressively to save it, and also in a suit announced by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to reverse the listing, on the ground it might hurt the state’s oil- and gas-dependent economy. (And another one by a big-game hunting group, protesting the ban on importing trophies.) The fate of the entire planet is a lot of responsibility to lay on just 20,000 bears, but those are the rules set by the only species whose opinion counts at the moment. Let’s hope it chooses wisely.

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Federal Judge Forces Action On President Bush’s Interior Department Regarding Polar Bears And Global Warming

The Bush Administration has dragged its heels so long with the matter over saving the polar bears that a federal judge has been forced to press the Interior Department to make a decision.

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, Calif., 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.

I say in November that we put Bush and Company, and all their allies, on the endangered list in government.

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Monitoring Bears In Maine, And Protecting Them Everywhere


There have been a few loves that never have faded in my 40-plus years, bears being one of them.  Whether it is preserving their area for feeding in the west, or preventing the extinction of the polar bears due to global warming, my first reaction is always what is in the best interest of the bears.  They were here first, and need us to be their advocates.

When I read of a study in Maine where collared bears were examined I was curious about the findings.  The pictures of how entry was made to the bear cave is remarkable and worth the time of my readers.  But when I saw the pictures of the mother bear and her cubs I again feel so strongly that we must do right by them as a species.  I suspect my readers will too.   It is imperative that we strive to insure their long-term survival, and control our ever-consuming lust for the habitat area that is rightfully theirs.

I find it galling to read of people in the western states who find it surprising that bears might be foraging for food in the trash bins of humans……on land that once was the feeding grounds for the wild bear.  I find it troubling that too many in Washington, D.C. fail to understand that the environmental policies of our country must factor in when considering if the polar bear should be placed on the extinction list.

These large wonderful creatures, whether they are brown, black, or white, need our attention.   We have to do everything we can to insure that they remain a part of our future, not because they are cute….but because it is the moral and proper thing to do.



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Global Warming Impacting The Grizzly Bear

Every aspect of our world is being affected and damaged by global warming.  Only those who are partisan water boys for the GOP fail to understand the plight of the world.  Many of those Republican interests are centered on money, and getting more of it, even though the environment suffers as a result. 

For the rest of us, including the Democratic Congress, the signs all around prove global warming is a dangerous fact.  We understand the science.  And it is our duty to work and stop the damage, and to stop the GOP from doing yet more harm.

I firmly believe that is our duty to speak and act for those who have no voice.  That has been a reason for my Democratic leanings for many decades.  The latest news about the grizzly bear, and the hardship they face as a result of global warming, is such an example of who I speak for, and why.

One of the principal food sources for the grizzly in the western states is the white bark pine.  But global warming is causing an explosion of the pine beetle, which then destroys the trees.  With only 1,300 grizzly bears (!!) in the lower 48 United States (most located around Yellowstone) one can begin to understand why there is much concern about global warming, and the impact on these wonderful animals.  And then the western landowners wonder why the bears search for other food supplies……

But the grizzly bear faces not only global warming, but also Republicans, in their fight for survival.  The Bush Administration, at the urging of special interests, has removed the grizzly from the Endangered Species List, and as a result once again making its habitat fair game for oil drilling, development and logging.  The Democratic Congress MUST put the brakes on the reckless and heartless actions that are destroying the grizzly bear population.  While some are fighting the Bush Administration action in court, I suggest that a robust effort by the Democrats in Congress would be the better avenue.  The American public is behind the grizzly bear.  It is time for the Democrats to lead on this issue.

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