Environmentalists plan polar bear suit

December 22, 2008 2:02:31 PM PST
Environmental groups in California and across the nation will announce plans today to take the Bush administration to court -- in an effort to save the polar bear from extinction.

The Bush administration is missing a deadline today; it will not be announcing whether the polar bear should be on the endangered species list. Officials have had a year to think about it, but say it is just too complicated and they want to do it right, so they need more time. But environmentalists say the ice is melting so quickly in the arctic that the polar bears don't have a lot of time.

Environmentalists say the polar bears in the arctic are on shaky ground.

"The world they live in is melting out from beneath them," said Kate Wing, NRDC policy analyst.

But the Bush administration is also in some unstable territory. This administration has never declared a species endangered because of global warming and officials say they won't be able to announce a decision today because of the complexity of the issue. Today is the deadline for a verdict according to the endangered species act.

"It's extremely disappointing, we have a situation where over half of the sub-populations of polar bears are expected to be extinct by the middle of this century -- if we don't take real action now," said Kate Wing.

Policy analysts at the Natural Resources Defense Council worry there are other motivating factors behind the delay. They suspect the federal government is buying time so oil and gas companies can do some drilling in the bear's habitat. The National Rifle Association is also lobbying against protecting the bear because its members enjoy hunting it and bringing it home as a trophy. But the Director of Conservation at the San Francisco zoo is staying positive. He believes federal officials when they say administrative issues are behind the delay.

"I think there's compelling evidence that shows that climate change is going to have a profound impact on polar bears. The evidence - its science based and administrative issues can't get in the way of science" said John Aikin, SF Zoo Director of Conservation.

The San Francisco zoo has three polar bears but mating isn't an option - they're all females. And zoo officials say breeding polar bears isn't the quick solution anyway because it takes such huge enclosures to house the bears. Instead, the zoo is focusing on education. Especially for their youngest visitors.

"All of us are dependent on oil and gas too much right now, it's something we can all do to protect the polar bears is to reduce our carbon footprint. I love polar bears. They're absolutely amazing animals. The size of their paws! Just amazing animals," said John Aikin.

The Bush administration is hoping to make a decision within a month. But environmental groups plan to file notice today to sue the government -- saying this has been an administration of broken promises.


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