From Kathleen McCoy in Anchorage --
There's lots of coverage all over of the controversial decision earlier today by the Bush administration to list Alaska polar bears as a threatened species. Look for extensive coverage on the ADN homepage today, later tonight and tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's some of what else is out there:
> Reuters UK: Canada won't be following the U.S. move on polar bears. Canada has given its estimated 15,500 bears their weakest classification to date, "special concern," a step below "endangered," saying the carnivores are in trouble but not at risk of extinction. Nunavut, home to Canada's aboriginal Inuit people and most of its polar bears, had no immediate reaction. Inuit officials fear listing the animals as endangered in Canada would risk loss of money from U.S. hunters, who spend millions a year to hunt them in Canada.
>Science News: Today's listing leaves plenty of questions about what it will really mean. Kempthorne warned that the Endangered Species Act is "not the right tool to set climate policy." A new rule clarifies that regulators are not to connect harm to the bear habitat to emissions from any specific power plant. With respect to oil drilling, he said any work activity now permissible under the Marine Mammal Protection Act will be allowed under the ESA.
>Bloomberg.com: Environmental groups denounce the decision. Sierra Club calls it "riddled with loopholes, caveats and backhanded language that could actually undermine protections." Environmental groups say they may use the designation to challenge developments many miles away - including coal-fired plants - because they emit heat-trapping gas that is melting Arctic ice. The Alaska Oil and Gas Association, representing 17 oil companies doing work in the state, say they expect law suits blocking Arctic oil exploration. "We are very disappointed," said Marilyn Crockett, executive director.
>Wall Street Journal: The decision comes despite intense lobbying by the oil and gas industries. Conoco Phillips sent an April 9 letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service saying an endangered listing "is not warranted" based on polar bear numbers. Listing them as threatened "will have an adverse impact on the oil and gas industry and people that live in the Arctic" in the form of "additional administrative burdens and increased costs associated with such burdens." Those close to the decision, both in and out of the administration, say two documents were fully prepared before the announcement, one supporting a listing, one opposing it.
>Los Angeles Times: Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey released a comprehensive, nine-volume analysis of the science and made a dire forecast in September: Two-thirds of the bears' habitat would disappear by 2050. Polar bears are so unsuccessful at hunting on land that they often fast in summer, losing two pounds a day. This forced fast is three weeks longer now than it was 30 years ago, according to studies of Canada's western Hudson Bay bears. As the bears get thinner, their reproduction drops along with cub survival rates. Less is known about bears elsewhere in the Arctic, but surveys have pinpointed bears swimming and drowning in open water and cannibalizing other polar bears.
>American Enterprise Institute: This decision will likely end all Arctic exploration for oil and gas, at least in the U.S. The U.S. Geological Survey and the Norwegian company StatoilHydro say the Arctic holds as much as one-quarter of the world's remaining undiscovered oil and gas deposits, and wildcatters believe the volume will increase substantially as more is learned about the area's geology. This decision will change the world we live in fundamentally.
>The New York Times: Kempthorne, who earlier in his career was a stiff opponent of the ESA, said: "This has been a difficult decision. But in light of the scientific record, and the restraints of the inflexible law that guides me, the only decision I can see making." Stanford law professor Barton Thompson said the Interior Department gave itself "sufficient room" to list the polar bear, but did not provide "environmental organizations with a mechanism for trying to address climate change." One provision, the 4(d) rule - allows flexible management of a threatened species, as long as the chances of conservation would be enhanced, or at least not diminished. Kassie Siegel, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, says the decision fell short. "The listing lets the bear into the hospital, but then the 4(d) rule says the bear's insurance doesn't cover the necessary treatments."