Media Advisory, December 23, 2010
Statement of Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace on Obama Polar Bear Endangered Species Act Decision
WASHINGTON— This week, the Obama administration reaffirmed a Bush-era decision that listed the polar bear as “threatened,” rather than the more protective “endangered,” under the Endangered Species Act. The Obama government claimed that the polar bear did not qualify as “endangered” because it was not “on the brink” of extinction — a standard that is not contained in the Endangered Species Act.
The decision, made by the Department of the Interior, comes in response to a November court ruling ordering the administration to either reconsider or clarify the reasoning behind the Bush decision to list the bear as “threatened.” The November court ruling resulted from a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace, which is ongoing. A hearing on the proper listing status for the polar bear is set for Feb. 23, 2011, in Washington, D.C.
The conservation groups issued the following statement in response to the new decision:
“The Obama administration delivered a lump of coal to the polar bear for Christmas,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center’s Climate Law Institute and lead author of the 2005 petition to federally protect the polar bear. “Once again President Obama’s Interior Department has sacrificed sound science for political expediency, and the polar bear will suffer as a result.”
“I guess if a wrecking ball is barreling down on your house, you are just ‘threatened’...it might change course,” said Andrew Wetzler, Director of the Land & Wildlife Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The administration missed an opportunity. We are convinced that is wrong and any reasonable definition of ‘endangered species’ includes the polar bear.”
“Unfortunately, rather than acknowledge the plight of the polar bear, the Obama administration continued its head-in-sand approach to species protection in the face of global warming,” said Melanie Duchin of Greenpeace. “Ultimately, we are confident the court will do what the Obama administration failed to do — give polar bears the legal protection to which they are entitled and which they need.”