The polar bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2008. Because the Appeals Court upheld that ruling, no laws change. Companies looking to operate in sensitive habitats will still need to undergo the existing review processes.
Mike Geraghty, Alaska’s Attorney General, said it’s too early for the state to decide what options it has.
He said the polar bear population is healthy, and this ruling sets a precedent that it’s legal to preemptively list a species as threatened.
“The polar bear is based on a 45 year projection. Nobody doubts that the current species has a healthy population,” he said in a phone interview Friday morning. “It takes a certain amount of speculation to figure out what’s going to happen 45 years from now with climate change. And also, what about the adaptability of species to loss of habitat.”
Kassie Siegel, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, welcomed the ruling. Her group was one of the appellees in the suit.
“The polar bear’s plight is so clear and so dire there was really no question they deserved protection under the Endangered Species Act,” she said.
Siegel said the polar bear is the first species to be placed on the endangered list solely because of climate change.
And now that the court has ruled, she said climate policy needs to follow.
“The science on climate change the very real threats on the polar bear have long been indisputable. They are now also legally indisputable as well. But what we really need to do now is to get serious about swift greenhouse pollution cuts. Because that’s what we need to do to save polar bears,” she said.
Siegel argued it’s only a matter of time for Fish and Wildlife to upgrade the polar bear’s status from threatened to endangered.
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