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US May List Polar Bear as Endangered Due to Global Warming

Ursus maritimus. Photo: USFWS

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that it is opening the formal process that could result in the listing of the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act based on “substantial scientific and commercial information” submitted in a December lawsuit filed by three conservation groups.

Polar bears are experiencing an unprecedented meltdown of their sea-ice habitat caused by global warming. The thick multiyear ice has been shrinking up to 10% per decade, and some climate models predict that the Arctic could be ice-free in summer as early as 2040.

The receding ice causes numerous difficulties for the bears, including a delay in the onset of their hunting season (increasing the risk of starvation), and longer swims. The US Minerals Management Service has concluded that some polar bears are drowning as they try to swim increasingly long distances between the ice and land.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Greenpeace filed the lawsuit against Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and the US Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to respond to the groups’ petition to list polar bears under the law.

Federal officials have now acknowledged that global warming is transforming the Arctic, and threatening polar bears with extinction.

—Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity

The USFWS is opening a status review and a 60-day public comment period to give all interested parties an opportunity to provide information on the status of the polar bear throughout its range. At the conclusion of the status review, the agency will publish a “12-month finding” announcing the determination.

If the listing is believed to be warranted, the Service will publish a proposed rule to list the species at the end of the 12-month process, unless the action is precluded by the need to undertake higher priority actions on other species.

If the bears are given federal protection, they would be the first US mammals officially deemed to be in danger of extinction because of global warming.



if humans can't stop themselfs from killing themselfs what makes you think polar bears are going to change people's mind?

not saying its a useless update but... ah what the hell the bears are cute!


Polar bear is probably extinct in a couple of decades..
If global warming is not taken seriously, I wonder when is gonna be us?

Robert Schwartz

Oh whoppie. Now unelected bureaucrats and judges will set policies that our elected officials do not want to set. I am sure that enviromentalists will be thrilled. Of course they do not care about democracy.


Being an elected official does not exempt you from the law; that's why we have judges. Except, of course, if you are George W. Bush. This listing, of course, will never happen. There is no way in hell the Bush administration is going to list a species as endangered, especially if the reason is global warming.


There is less to this story than it appears. The FWS has to start a formal process because of the petition filed, and the subsequent court rulings. They will have a hard time making the case that the Polar bear is endangered or threatened given that population numbers in Canada and Alaska have increased substaintially since the '60s and '70s when average winter temperatures were colder than they have been in recent years. Global warming could cause populations to crash, but until some actual decline is seen, that is mereley hypothetical.

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