Federal Judge Rules Polar Bears Are ‘Threatened’, Not Endangered

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Obama administration’s request to list the polar bear as merely threatened, not endangered, under the Endangered Species Act.

The decision was disappointing to both environmental groups who wanted the extra protections an endangered classification would afford, as well as industry interest who wanted the polar bear removed from the list altogether.

In his 116-page opinion (pdf), U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia wrote that he was “persuaded that the listing rule survives this highly deferential standard” and that the plaintiffs challenging the listing “have failed to demonstrate that the agency’s listing determination rises to the level of irrationality.”

Sullivan nevertheless made it clear in his opinion that he had some sympathy for environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity, which had argued that the science on global warming could have supported a finding that the bear was endangered.

“Certainly, where global warming has been identified as the primary threat to the polar bear’s sea ice habitat and the agency has acknowledged that the global warming trend is unlikely to reverse itself, a conclusion that the species is … ‘in danger of extinction’ has undeniable appeal,” Sullivan wrote in a footnote.

The issue of polar bear protections is complicated by many political factors, including the effects of human-induced climate change and the petroleum industry’s desire to conduct offshore drilling operations in the delicate Beaufort and Chukchi seas. So far, these operations have been put on hold because there is currently no technology available to clean up a catastrophic oil spill in the icy Alaskan waters.

According to Polar Bear International (PBI), “scientists have concluded that the threat to polar bears is ecological change in the Arctic from global warming. Polar bears depend on sea ice for hunting, breeding, and in some cases, denning. Summer ice loss in the Arctic now equals an area the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined.”

Unfortunately, the decision to list the polar bear as threatened rather than endangered was one that Obama inherited from the Bush administration, including a strategic caveat which prevents any interpretation of the bears’ threatened status to trigger climate change pollution regulation.

Earthjustice reports that the Obama administration is poised to make decisions in the coming months that threaten long-lasting and irreparable damage to the Arctic. It will decide whether to let stand Bush-era oil leases covering millions of acres in the Chukchi Sea. And it will decide whether to allow Shell Oil Co., the world’s second largest corporation, to embark on an aggressive oil drilling plan in Arctic seas starting in 2012.

Related Reading:

Shell’s Arctic Drilling Plans Face Further Delays

Polar Bear Swims For 9 Days Before Finding Ice

Polar Bear Bones Weakened By Pollutants

Source: NY Times


Zubair Khan
Zubair Khan4 years ago




Aurora Delgado
Aurora Delgado5 years ago

Judges are not qualified to determine that. "Independent" scientist are the ones to decide it and anybody else. Bears' interest is the only thing to be considered.

Randall S.
Randy Stein5 years ago

"Endangered" versus "threatened"??? Is that like the difference between "raped" and "having unconsentual sex"????

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B.5 years ago


Janine H.
Janine H.5 years ago

This is a very sad story. Other animals has to go only because "we" humans do not want to share the world with other life forms, these life forms "we" would not eat (vegetarian food is not a bad idea, or eating with conscience as the so called primitive cultures did and still do, if they still exist. No meat/fish every day). "We" destroy averything around us and "we" forget, that everything is important to survive, too.

As little child i thought that rain is when God and the angels cry - because "we" humans have forgotten that we need this "intelligence", someone who could help... if "we" hadn't turned away for many centuries ago...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

john L.
john L.5 years ago

BLM, Federal Justices, numerous State and Federal legislators, all kissing up to Big Oil regardless of the negative effects to people places and animals.

Katherine W.
Katherine Wright5 years ago

This judge is full of bull****

Patricia A.
Patricia A.5 years ago

Didn't this same judge give us good news previously by ruling polar bears Endangered? Now he turns around and votes the opposite? What the hell? Polar Bears (so obvious) should be on the Endangered List - Not threatened! What's wrong with you people - judge? Yeh right!

Elizabeth Allweiss

Diane, topic related because big oil is behind the polar bear's minimised protections as well as wild horses'removals from their sanctuaried public lands,and BLM/special interestmassacres.Forced sterilization IS directly a violation of 1971 act because it causes extinction of the horses.contraception delays pregnancy. Toxicity NOT main issue here,it is the stripping of male horses'ability to reproduce and totally endangers the future of wild horse breeds.There will be no reproduction in any setting once the sterilizations take place. It deprives female and male horses their basic rights to parent offspring.Sterilization is also unneccesary invasive surgery.The free horse population is NOT too high, it is a LIE. Their numbers are actually too low.In captivity, the horses are dying because BLM and BP OIL are causing them to die starving and dehydrating in the overcrowded pens.They are also rough handling them, abusing them, and neglecting them. From this JULY 16,2011, unless we win a victory in court for enforcement of the act of 1971, a three state massachre of wild horses by BLM field offices begins,toward the total extinction of free horses in the united states.They kill off the horses any way they can,committed numerous felonies in the process,they break federal laws, then we have no democratic process anymore and are really just a totalitarian government,not a free nation anymore, because Wild Horses and Burros Law of 1971 was 100% voted into effect as FEDERAL LAW!