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E & E News, October 6, 2009

Groups plan lawsuit to force penguin listing
By Patrick Reis, E & E reporter

Two advocacy groups announced plans today to sue the Obama administration unless it reverses a Bush-era decision denying penguins a place on the endangered species list.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network say Antarctica's emperor penguin -- protagonist of the documentary "March of the Penguins" -- and two species of rockhopper penguin face extinction from the dual threats of climate change and industrial fishing.

The Interior Department in December contested that notion, saying impacts from global warming on penguins were too uncertain to merit an Endangered Species Act listing.

The groups said today that they would sue in 60 days unless the Fish and Wildlife Service -- the Interior agency that deals with endangered species -- reverses that decision and reopens a review of the penguins' status.

"If the Obama administration is serious about restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making, it will stand behind the sound science showing that global warming is threatening the emperor penguin and protect this species before it's too late," said Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Fish and Wildlife declined to comment on the announcement.

Listing penguins would require Interior to set strict regulations for the U.S. longline fishing fleet in the Antarctic, whose gear can entangle and drown penguins, Wolf said.

The groups also hope the listing would bolster the link between species protections and regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. Penguins' sea ice habitat is melting because of global warming, which also threatens some of the fish and krill populations the seabirds depend on, Wolf said.

In this and other attempts to garner federal protection for species threatened by global warming, environmental groups have argued that
protecting those species requires the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

When listing the polar bear, the Bush administration published a special rule prohibiting endangered species reviews from taking greenhouse gas emissions into account. The rule was later upheld by the Obama administration, but environmental groups are hoping to reverse it through litigation.

Copyright 2009 E&E Publishing.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton