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For Immediate Release, April 30, 2009

Contact: Kassie Siegel, (951) 961-7972

Congress and California Legislature Speak Out for Polar Bears:
Letters Seek Revocation of Damaging Bush Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C.— In a remarkable show of support for the polar bear, 41 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 members of the California legislature submitted letters to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar requesting that he revoke a Bush administration rule limiting protections for the Arctic’s top predator under the Endangered Species Act. Salazar has until May 9 to repeal the Bush polar bear rule pursuant to special authority granted to him by Congress in the Omnibus Appropriations Act. While Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the repeal of a separate, nationwide Bush Endangered Species Act regulation on Monday, Salazar has yet to commit to revoking the damaging polar bear rule.

“More than 75 lawmakers in Congress and the California legislature have asked Secretary Salazar to take the common-sense step of revoking Bush’s polar bear extinction plan by the May 9 deadline,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Arctic sea ice on which the polar bear depends is melting far faster than projected, and some leading scientists now believe that the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer as early as 2012 — a complete disaster for the polar bear and many other ice-dependent species, including walrus and ringed, bearded, spotted, and ribbon seals. The U.S. Geological Survey projects that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will disappear by mid-century if current greenhouse emissions continue.

While the Bush administration was compelled by the law to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming, it weakened that listing by enacting the special rule to reduce the protections the polar bear would otherwise receive and exempt greenhouse gas emissions from regulation.

The House letter, led by Rep. Jay Inslee and Rep. Ed Markey, states that “The polar bear 4(d) rulemaking, which allowed public input only after an interim final regulation had already been put in place, ignores the law’s mandate to adopt all measures necessary for the conservation of threatened species and denies protections that normally are afforded to species listed as threatened.” This sentiment mirrors a similar letter sent last week by senators Feinstein, Boxer, and Kerry, which is now supported by over a dozen other senators and urges Salazar to repeal the polar bear global warming rule issued by Bush.

Last year, the California state legislature memorialized California's commitment to protecting the state's wildlife and natural habitats by adopting a joint resolution calling on the Bush administration to provide federal Endangered Species Act protections to the polar bear and other wildlife threatened by global warming. Today's letter builds on that resolution in calling for the restoration of the protections that polar bears need to survive.

"Today's letter is a strong signal of California’s longtime leadership in fighting global warming and protecting wildlife and habitats,” said Siegel.

Secretary Salazar has also received more than 200,000 citizen petitions asking that he revoke the Bush Endangered Species Act and polar bear rules. If does not rescind the Bush polar bear extinction regulations by May 9th the rule will remain in effect.

Letter from U.S. Congress

Letter from the California legislature

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