Judge: No more delays on polar bear decision


The Interior Department has until May 15 to decide if the polar bear deserves protection as an endangered species, following a lawsuit by several environmental organizations and a ruling by Federal District Court Judge Claudia Wilken. The Interior Department has spent months delaying its decision, most recently saying it would not be able to decide before June 30.

Legally, a decision on listing polar bears as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act was required way back in early January. Under Judge Wilken's ruling, a decision is not only due on the 15th, it would take effect immediately.

Environmental groups are praising this decision (of course) -- but somehow the cynic inside me predicts at least one more delay tactic on the part of the Bush Administration. We'll see.

Meanwhile, Canada last week made at least some motion on polar bear protection. Polar bears will continue to be listed as a species of "special concern" in Canada, with the understanding that they face threats that will soon move them over the line to become a "threatened" species:

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada chairman Dr. Jeff Hutchings told the Globe and Mail last week: "Are things worse than they were in 2002? I'd have to say yes. And they're near to being threatened. And if the declines we're seeing today continue, their status will have to change."

I think we'll be revisiting this topic in the weeks to come.

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