Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that he is retaining the Endangered Species Act special rule for polar bears, the rule introduced in May 2008 when the polar bear was listed under the ESA. The special rule, finally published under the Bush administration in December, eliminates the possibility of greenhouse gas emissions outside the range of the bears being considered as a take of the bears under the ESA, and also allows the bears to be conserved under the terms of the Marine Mammals Protections Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
In February Congress introduced a rider to the 2009 omnibus appropriations bill, to allow the withdrawal of this rule, and the withdrawal of another regulation change, published at the same time, relaxing the terms under which government agencies had to consult over the potential impact of activities on a listed species. The appropriations bill rider enabled withdrawal of both regulation changes without public comment, with a deadline of May 9 for withdrawal.
On April 28 Salazar and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announced that they were revoking the ESA consultation regulation change, but today’s announcement indicates that the polar bear special rule will remain in place.
“To see the polar bear’s habitat melting and an iconic species threatened is an environmental tragedy of the modern age,” Salazar said in announcing his decision on the polar bear rule. “This administration is fully committed to the protection and recovery of the polar bear. I have reviewed the current rule, received the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and concluded that the best course of action for protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act is to wisely implement the current rule, monitor its effectiveness, and evaluate our options for improving the recovery of the species.”
See story in May 17 issue, available online at noon, Friday, May 15 at www.PetroleumNews.com