Polar Bears Finally Make Endangered List, Then Get Zero Benefit

By Melissa Lafsky | June 19, 2008 12:34 pm

polar bearRecently, we covered the disproportionate deluge of cuddly animals that make it onto the endangered list, the most recent example being the polar bear. But while their cuteness might win them a spot on the list, it looks like it may not do much else. According to the AP, the Bush administration has given the go-ahead to oil companies to “annoy and potentially harm” the bears in the pursuit of oil and natural gas. According to the report:

The Fish and Wildlife Service issued regulations this week providing legal protection to seven oil companies planning to search for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea off the northwestern coast of Alaska if “small numbers” of polar bears or Pacific walruses are incidentally harmed by their activities over the next five years.

Given that around eight percent of all Arctic polar bears live near the Chukchi Sea, and that the bears are known to be particularly sensitive to changes in their environment (not to mention the presence of humans), this decision does plenty to undermine the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act.

H. Dale Hall, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, justified the exception as follows:

“The oil and gas industry in operating under the kind of rules they have operated under for 15 years has not been a threat to the species… It was the ice melting and the habitat going away that was a threat to the species over everything else.”

An interesting argument, given that it’s the product produced by the oil and gas industry that helped get us—and the polar bears—into this mess in the first place.

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