In a 27 December 2006 press release, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Fish and Wildlife intends to review and compile scientific information in order to determine the fate of the species. The Bush Administration is attributing climate change to the melting of the species habitat. However, administration officials do not anticipate tightening regulations on drilling or greenhouse gas emissions.
The proposal to list the polar bear is a result of a legal agreement the government made with a group of environmental organizations that claim the Administration is not sufficiently protecting the species. Secretary Kempthorne stated in a telephone news conference, "We are making this proposal because a scientific review of the species by the Fish and Wildlife Service found that populations may be threatened by receding sea ice, which polar bears use as a platform for many activities essential to their life cycle, including hunting for their main prey, Arctic seals."
The FWS also stated, "recent scientific studies of adult polar bears in Canada and in Alaska's Southern Beaufort Sea have shown weight loss and reduced cub survival." Secretary Kempthorne stated in a radio news release that the Fish and Wildlife Service "extensively analyzed impact of both onshore and offshore oil and gas development on polar bear populations and determined the development does not pose a threat to the species." However, Letters of Authorization have recently been given to six oil and gas development and exploration companies "to take polar bears incidental to oil and gas industry exploration activities in the Beaufort Sea and adjacent northern coast of Alaska."
In other climate change news, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) has circulated draft global warming legislation to environmental groups, businesses, and economists, to help foster a bipartisan effort on how to address greenhouse gases and global warming. The draft, labeled as "still a work in progress" is not expected to be finalized for several months.
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