It’s endangered species day. (No, I don’t know why our lawmakers spend time declaring these dopey “days” either, but as special days go, I’m more down for this one than many.)
So, while we’re celebrating—or arguing over— yesterday’s California Supremes decision that smashes the gay marriage ban, let me take this opportunity to also celebrate the fact that, on Wednesday of this week, big-business-hugging, grizzly-hater Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, finally broke down under pressure from federal Judge Claudia Wilken and declared the polar bear to be a threatened species under the Endangered Species act.
At least sort of.
“I want to make clear that this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting,” said Kempthorne. “…The ESA is not the right tool to set U.S. climate policy.”
Kempthorne sought to assure the business community that the bear’s protection would not keep someone from building a coal-burning power plant or drill for oil in Arctic waters.
Thanks, Dick. Glad you clarified that this is an EMPTY DECLARATION.
Nevermind that the entire reason for listing the polar bear is, as Kempthorne’s own people at US Fish and Wildlife put it…..
This 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.
The primary threat to polar bears is the decrease of sea ice coverage. Although some females use snow dens on land for birthing cubs, polar bears are almost completely dependent upon sea ice for their sustenance. Any significant changes in the abundance, distribution, or existence of sea ice will have effects on the number and behavior of these animals and their prey.
This proposed listing responds to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, dated February 16, 2005, to list the polar bear as threatened and to designate critical habitat. The Service’s comprehensive review of the status of the polar bear determined that the best available scientific and commercial data indicates that protecting the species as threatened throughout its range is appropriate.
In other words, the point of officially declaring the polar bear to be “threatened” is to get the species some protected habitat, to prevent it from sliding into “endangered” status.
But that isn’t Kempthorne’s point. He just wanted the federal judge to stop (rightly) threatening and or endangering him legally about addressing the bear’s status.
All we need to know about Kempthorne and bears—any bears—may be summed up by the statement he made when, as governor of Idaho, he nearly singlehandedly kept Interior Secretary Gale Norton from enacting a widely-supported proposal to reintroduce the threatened grizzly into the Bitterroot range of Idaho and Montana. To wit:
“I oppose bringing these massive, flesh-eating carnivores into Idaho.”
Actually, that’s one of the things I admire about grizz’s and polar bears: if you threaten them or their cubs….
…they eat you.