Alaska filing legal challenge to polar bear endangered species listing

[JURIST] Alaska Governor Sarah Palin [official profile] announced Thursday that her office intends to launch a court challenge [press release] to last week's listing of the polar bear on the US endangered species list. The suit will be filed in US District Court in Washington and will argue that science shows that polar bears do not need to be protected. Palin argues that the designation of the polar bear as "threatened" will have a negative impact on development in Alaska. Under the Endangered Species Act [PDF text], the federal government cannot fund, authorize, or carry out any project that will have a negative impact on a listed species. Environmental News Network has more.

The US Department of Interior (DOI) made the listing [press release] over two years after the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council [advocacy websites] petitioned to protect the polar bear under the ESA. The organizations say the polar bears' habitat, the Arctic sea ice, is at risk from global warming. One of the five factors under the ESA is "present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of habitat." In 2007, the US Geological Service delivered to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for administering the Endangered Species Program [official webistes], nine studies that projected continued melting of the Arctic sea ice. The FWS recommended listing the polar bear as "threatened", at risk of becoming endangered. After missing a deadline in January, the District Court ordered the DOI to make a decision [CBD press release] by May 15. While the listing requires the federal government to ensure that projects will not negatively affect the polar bear, the DOI utilized Section 4(d) of the ESA, which says that any activity allowed under the Marine Mammals Protection Act [PDF text] is allowed to continue. This will allow ongoing development of oil and gas. Environmental News Network has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

 

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