Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced on May 14, 2008 that he is accepting the recommendation of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing is based on the best available science, which shows that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species.
Wrapped up in this decision are such contentious issues as U.S. policy on global warming and oil production in polar bear habitat. To wit, from the Associated Press:
_[T]he oil industry is bracing for some courtroom battles to maintain its stake in Alaska’s oil-rich fields now that the Interior Department has listed polar bears as a threatened species.
About 15 percent of the nation’s oil is being produced in Alaska, and soaring prices for the commodity are pushing companies to look farther and farther offshore to the floors of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, which are frozen much of the year._
For more background on the debate leading up to this decision see the following links, and then tell us what you think about the decision.