US District Court rule challenges polar bear ESA listing

Image: Dag Vongraven, Norwegian Polar Institute
US District Court judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled Nov 4, 2010, that the US Department of Interior will have to reconsider or defend their decision from May 2008 to list polar bears as "Threatened" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Court states in a 26-page ruling that US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) "failed to adequately explain the legal basis for its Listing Rule". The new District Court ruling came as a response to lawsuits from Center for Biological Diversity, who submitted the original petition to list the polar bear as threatened under ESA in 2005 and who seek additional protection for polar bears, and from other plaintiffs, such as the State of Alaska, Safari Club International and others, who think that the polar bear does not meet the definition of a threatened or endangered species and therefore does not qualify for ESA protections at all.
 
FWS must respond no later than Dec 23. The plaintiffs may respond once, as may FWS, before the process ends with a hearing on Feb 23, 2011.
 
It is interesting to note that the Bush admimistration after the decision in May 2008 followed it by an amendment stating that greenhouse gas emissions can't be regulated by rulings under the ESA, and that such amendments is possible only when species have been ruled as "Threatened" and not when they are ruled as "Endangered".
 
ESA defintions: 
A threatened species is "any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range”, and an endangered species is “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range”.
Published Monday November 22 2010 by Dag Vongraven