Group Using Polar Bear to Force Greenhouse Gas Reduction
By Susan Jones Morning Editor

February 17, 2005

( - A conservation group is attempting to use the federal Endangered Species Act to clobber the U.S. government over global warming..

The Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday announced it has filed a formal petition to have the polar bear added to threatened species list.

"Polar bears may become extinct by the end of end of this century because their sea-ice habitat is literally melting away due to global warming," the group said in a message on its website.

Listing polar bears under the Endangered Species Act will "provide broad protection to polar bears," the Center said; and it will require federal agencies to "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."

So, if global warming is threatening polar bears, the U.S. government would be obliged to do something about greenhouse gas emissions that (some believe) cause global warming.

The Center for Biological Diversity noted that the U.S. currently produces 24 percent of the world's greenhouse gases -- and it says the Bush administration has adopted a climate plan "that will allow emissions to continue to grow rapidly."

"The United States must quickly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to a small fraction of current levels or polar bears will become extinct," said Kassie Siegel, lead author of the polar bear petition.

"Greenhouse gas emissions can be drastically cut with sound policy changes that will not decrease quality of life, such as by increasing fuel efficiency standards for automobiles. But we must act now," Siegel said.

The Center for Biological Diversity chose Wednesday -- the day the Kyoto Protocol took effect (without U.S. participation) -- as the day to file its petition requesting protection for the polar bear.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency charged with protecting species under the ESA, has 90 days to respond to the petition.

As Cybercast News Service previously has reported, the Endangered Species Act frequently is invoked by activists to stymie landowners, ranchers, farmers, developers, road-builders and the oil, mining and timber industries. For many, it's become more of a "land use" issue than a species protection issue.

A bill introduced in the 108th Congress to reform the Endangered Species Act is expected to be reintroduced in the current 109th Congress.

House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) has said he will make ESA reform a priority for his committee.

According to Pombo, "Under the mantra of species protection, radical environmental organizations use the ESA to raise funds, block development projects, and prohibit legal land uses of nearly every kind.

"By filing inordinate numbers of lawsuits under the ESA, environmental organizations have hand-cuffed the [Fish and Wildlife Service] to courtroom defense tables, draining the time, money, and manpower Congress intended the service to spend on species recovery in the field."

Moreover, Pombo and other critics say the law has failed to recover most species; and once a species is "checked in," it's rarely checked out.

Environmental activists strongly oppose any effort to "gut" the Endangered Species Act.



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