Friday, May 25, 2007


Although some local populations of polar bears have been shrinking, their total global population has been growing. Between the 1970s and 2007, the total global population of polar bears increased from 5,000 to 25,000. On the west coast of Hudson Bay in Canada, for example, there were an estimated 1200 polar bears in 1987, and 950 in 2007.

In February 2005 the environmental group, Center for Biological Diversity, with support from American senator Joe Lieberman, petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), part of the Department of the Interior to use the Endangered Species Act and list the bears as a threatened species.

Under United States law the FWS was required to respond to the petition within 90 days, but in October 2005 after no reply had been received the Center for Biological Diversity threatened to sue the United States Government. On 14 December 2006 the Center for Biological Diversity along with Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit in California.

On December 27, 2006, the United States Department of the Interior in agreement with the three groups proposed that polar bears be added to the endangered species list, the first change of this type to be attributed to global warming. It will take up to a year to make the final determination. The Natural Resources Defense Council contends that though it is "a big step forward" the proposal fails to identify global warming pollution as the cause of rising Arctic temperatures and vanishing sea ice. In addition, it says the proposal offered by Dr. Rosa Meehan, Supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, does not designate any of the land discussed as the kind of habitat that is essential for the polar bear's survival as "critical habitat" that could help the bear recover.

The World Conservation Union had already given polar bears threatened status in May 2006.


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