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Politicizing the Polar Bear

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Posted on Jun 30, 2008
polar bear
Richard Ellis

By Richard Ellis

(Page 3)

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin responded by submitting an Op-Ed piece to The New York Times (published last Jan. 5), in which she argued against listing the polar bear, saying that “polar bears are more numerous than they were 40 years ago” and they don’t need government protection. She suggests that “climate change” is the only threat to the bears, never mentioning the real reason that environmental groups are in favor of the listing: that oil and gas drilling would wreak havoc with the bears’ Alaskan habitat. Writing in The San Francisco Chronicle, Jane Kay said, “Environmental groups fear that political meddling and a rush to sell oil leases in Arctic waters are behind the Bush administration’s announcement that it will miss a legal deadline to determine whether to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act. ... Major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, and Greenpeace, as well as some congressional leaders ... fear that the polar bear decision has been purposefully delayed to allow a first-time oil lease sale to go forward Feb. 6 in Alaska’s pristine Chukchi Sea, which provides one-tenth of the habitat for the world’s polar bears.”

The oil and gas industry has contributed millions of dollars to Alaskans; the polar bear hasn’t contributed much except a few pretty pictures and an uncomfortable controversy about endangered species. One of the Alaskans who has benefited from the Alaska pipeline is Ted Stevens, the longest-serving senator in the history of the Republican Party. In the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (Jan. 10, 2008) Stevens said that listing the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act would impact oil and gas leasing on Alaska’s North Slope and possibly offshore and could even block the development of a natural gas pipeline. “If the polar bear is listed,” he said, “its habitat will be subject to new criteria as far as any development, and the major development being considered today in the polar bear habitat is the natural gas pipeline.” The listing is unnecessary, he continued, “and backed largely by environmentalists bent on blocking development projects.”  Those darned environmentalists! Worried about a few bears when there’s millions to be made from another pipeline!

Most Alaskans—and almost all Alaskan politicians—are in favor of the oil leases, and opposed to the listing of the polar bear. If the Chukchi Sea wells come in, it would probably mean another pipeline and another bonanza for Alaskans. Don Young, the sole U.S. House member from Alaska since 1973, said in an Associated Press interview, “This is yet another example of how a law with the best of intentions has been subverted by the lawyers for the extreme environmental organizations and the liberal Democratic leadership.” (Young, a Republican, is under federal investigation for possibly taking bribes, illegal gratuities or unreported gifts.) The same politicians are ardently sup-porting the opening of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite opposition from environmentalists and politicians in the Lower 48.

Canadian Inuit leaders criticized environmentalists for pushing Washington to declare the polar bear a threatened species, saying the move was unnecessary and would hurt the local economy by deterring American hunters who spend millions of dollars a year to shoot the animals in northern Canada. Mary Simon, president of the Inuit Council (Tapiriit) of Canada, said, “The polar bear is a very important subsistence, economic, cultural, conservation, management, and rights concern for Inuit in Canada. It’s a complex and multilevel concern. But it seems the media, environmental groups, and the public are looking at this in overly simplistic black-and-white terms as the demise of the polar bear from climate change and sports hunting.”

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Fearful that politics would take precedence over conservation and that Lease Sale 193 would occur before the polar bear could be listed under the Endangered Species Act, Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming introduced legislation on Jan. 17, 2008,  that would compel the Bush administration to protect the polar bear before it allows widespread oil drilling in Alaska. On the day of the hearings, the committee published Markey’s remarks:
“Robert Frost wrote about two roads diverging in the wood, and here we have the Bush administration looking down two roads with regard to the polar bear. Down one road lies the survival of the polar bear and the orderly consideration of oil drilling and global warming and common sense. Down the other road, too often traveled by this administration, lies regulatory lunacy and a blatant disregard for moral responsibility. I urge Secretary Kempthorne and his agency to choose the Bush administration’s road less traveled and protect the polar bear, and the rest of us, from global warming.”

In early January, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would miss the statutory deadline to reach a decision on listing the polar bear as threatened under ESA as a result of global warming, saying it would take up to a month more to reach the decision. That could put the listing decision after the sale of oil drilling rights in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. The Chukchi Sea is a sensitive polar bear habitat, and the oil drilling area up for sale overlaps major parts of the polar bears’ essential habitat. The legislation proposed by Markey would require that the Interior Department delay the oil drilling rights sale in the Chukchi Sea until it had made a decision on the polar bear, and had performed its responsibility of establishing a “critical habitat” for the polar bear. 


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By samosamo, July 2, 2008 at 8:00 pm Link to this comment

Well I say or actually don’t have to say: Let the drilling begin because who is going to stop a bunch of oil addicted mother fuckers that think that the price of oil and gas will go down because of drilling lowers the price of gas and oil. Well, so they can go back to driving those monster vehicles, heck in my state, you would never even know that gas was $4/gal and the suv and big boy trucks to ride around town in were an issue to dive at the drop of a hat.
And the environment will remain pristine. Plenty of fresh air and clean water. Let em drill. Unless the human population goes below 1billion and stays there, everything will be lost on this planet, sooner than later

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By Wallace Kaufman, July 2, 2008 at 3:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If one is hell bent on listing the polar bear as endangered for the sake of political ends, then science, logic and experience are no obstacle to weak and phoney arguments.  Take the proposition that development threatens to disrupt their lives and existence. I have traveled fairly well in the Russian arctic where polar bears are numerous, and I have video of them visiting towns and small cities.  Like many other bears, they don’t mind being around humans. 

Or take the idea that increasing bear populations (a fact) shouldn’t stand in the way.  Well, what does constitute delisting or evidence of survival?  Regulate hunting, fine. Protect special habitat areas, fine.  But evoke all the draconian and legal battles of endangered status?  Illogical, or perhaps just political.

The idea that bears need to hunt from ice floes and that their only land food is reindeer, is also nonsense.  Wrangell Island bears and many others hunt sea mammals very successfully along the shore line. 

I love the arctic and its wildlife. I don’t find much use for people who lie about them.

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By Pacrat, July 2, 2008 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

At last there is scientific proof that polar bears are dangerous and major contributors to global warming. And here we have been blaming coal power generating plants! This news will wipe the smiles off the faces of those polar bears!

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By Bu-SHIT-ler, July 2, 2008 at 7:33 am Link to this comment

Kath, I agree with you, and to re-assure you, these sheeple aren’t getting away with it. As these evil human parasites continue to terrorize people, and all life as we know it, their complete extinction is imminent. I’m glad that I got to be part of a Team that will help decide the fate of these low-life scum. My research is just about complete…all the globe’s struggles, the parasites impoverishing people, the groups responsible for life and death decisions, the countries responsible for global proliferation/global warming, everyone in industries that destroy life, and lives, regardless of species, etc., etc., etc. These parasites who should never have seen the light of day (Soulless beings born into evil families), aka: God’s bastards. There will be sweeping change, and there will be no mercy upon those who accomodate, condone, conspire with, or even support such beings. Humanity needs to stand up for itself if it wants to avoid the same fate as the dinossaurs. The pinnacle of Humanity’s Fate is at its tipping point, and the majority need to confront the minority before it’s too late. Politics is destroying everything it touches, and Capitalism is tightening its grip on the globe and all its resources. When the 2 come together as they already have, you get Socio-Economic Terrorism, and the ultimate consequence will be a global genocide through various conspiracies involving every major industry out there, and with no end in sight, unless the people take their governments back. If people fail in this, God will ultimately have to decide whether to save the planet from Humanity, or let Humanity destroy itself and the planet in order to start anew…I don’t believe the latter choice would work because the creation/preservation of all other species would have to be protected.

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By Gloria Picchetti, July 2, 2008 at 5:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Isn’t there anyone who can donate old barges and things that float to be anchored where the polar bears and other animals can swim to while we learn how to deal with Global Warming? I know it’s one of my dumbest ever ideas but doesn’t anyone want beautiful wild animals to survive?

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By kath cantarella, July 1, 2008 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

People will soon be starving along with the bears. Is there a bleak justice in that? Maybe not. The ones who’ll suffer the least are probably the ones who are the most responsible.

But we all create our societies, and we are all to blame. I feel sorry for the kids, and their kids. What subtle horrors we hand down to those we love.

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