Meanwhile, the Department of Interior has released decisions on the listing of several species that have the potential to be severely impacted by climate change in the coming years. On 17 December, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing seven species of penguins, but stated that listing was not warranted for an additional three species: the northern rockhopper, macaroni, and emperor penguins. Similarly, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on the 23 December that the ribbon seal should not be a listed species under the Endangered Species Act.

Environmental groups are questioning the Bush administration’s decisions as the ribbon seals depend heavily on sea ice for reproduction and declining numbers of Emperor penguins, made famous by the movie “March of the Penguins,” have been linked to global warming.

The decision to not list the ribbon seal removes a potential barrier for energy development in the Chukchi Sea, where ten year exploration and drilling leases where auctioned off for $2.5 billion by the federal government in February. If the ribbon seal were listed, the sea ice in this area would likely be designated as critical habitat.

“The denial of protection for the ribbon seal ignores the science on global warming and ignores the law. We are confident it will be overturned by either the courts or the new administration,” said Brendan Cummings of The Center for Biological Diversity. The Center has filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue in response to the ribbon seal ruling.


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