Following Arctic Power’s news report of the polar bear ESA listing we have put together a timeline of the history of this listing process.
1) February 16, 2005 - The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitions the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to include the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The FWS had 90 days to make a decision to address the issue on the petition, and a one year deadline to make a formal finding.
2) Oct 11, 2005 - With over 90 days well passed and still no finding presented the CBD along with Greenpeace and Natural Resource Defense Council filled notice of intent to sue the FWS for a finding (60 days notice required).
3) December 15, 2005 - The FWS is sued in San Francisco court by CBD for a decision on dealing with the bear’s listing. As the case was about statutory deadline compliance a motion for summary judgment was filed.
4) On February 9, 2006 - The FWS published a response in the Federal Register. 71 Fed. Reg. 6,745 stating that the CBD petition filed showed that polar bear listing “may be warranted”, but that no other comment or decision is made. Period of public comment begins garnering over 140,000 responses. Public Comment
5) A week later the one year from initial petition deadline passes and the CBD filed an intent to sue the FWS on a polar bear “endangerment” finding.
6) On June 28, 2006 CBD sues the FWS for compliance with the 1 year rule under ESA petitioning regulations.
7) July 5, 2006 - Both parties negotiate an agreement and the court sets December 27, 2006 as the deadline for a FWS polar bear decision.
8) December 27, 2006 the FWS issues its decision that the polar bear is warranted a listing as an endangered species. Of note is the mention that from studies conducted the FWS has found that oil and gas exploration/production has shown no discernable threat to polar bears.
The Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announces plans to consider the polar bear as endangered. Endangered Press Release
9) January 9, 2007 FWS issues a statement on polar bears warranting the listing of the bear under the ESA. 72 Fed Register 1,063. No mention of global warming is made. Dept. of Interior Secretary Kempthorne orders USGS to produce status reports on polar bear and arctic sea ice.
10) Spring / Summer 2007 - USGS publishes 9 reports (Amstrup et al. 2007; Bergen et al. 2007; DeWeaver 2007; Durner et al. 2007; Hunter et al. 2007; Obbard et al. 2007; Regehr et al. 2007a. Rode et al. 2007; Stirling et al. 2007) on status of the polar ice cap and polar bear for review. The reports are heavily in favor of listing. Polar bear reports
11) March 2007 - Public hearings held in Washington DC and Barrow Alaska on proposed listing.
12) April 9, 2007 State of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Alaska Department of Fish and Game Special Assistant Tina Cunning write to Interior Secretary Kempthorne requesting removal of the polar bear from ESA listing process. The State states flawed science of the USGS reports including: speculative climate predictions, lack of adequate sea ice data, and a fundamental disagreement on the health of the polar bear population amongst other issues.
Governor Palin asks for extension to public comment period to take in the science of the new USGS reports.
13) October 17, 2007 - Hearing held by the House Subcommittee for Technology and Innovation addressing the polar bear and Arctic ice pack status. USGS Biology Director Sue Haseltine and CBD Director Kassie Siegel testify to promote the listing of the polar bear.
14) October 22, 2007 Last day allowed for public comment on the proposed listing. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation issues a rebuttal statement to the FWS on the polar bear listing decision. The statement condemns the lack of consultation with Arctic Native peoples as required by ESA regulations, criticizes the controversial science of the reports connection to the global warming claim. It asks for Dept. of Interior reconsideration and USGS compliance on the letter of the law (ESA listing regulation) on how the polar bear consultation process had taken place. It further questions the projected resultant administrative and scientific conflicts between the FWS and EPA as to national carbon emissions regulations once a man made global warming ESA listing is made.
15) January 9, 2008 one year deadline set from Jan ’07 FWS decision for administrative action by Department of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to decide on listing of the polar bear.
The listing of any species as endangered takes a long and complex path to complete. The polar bear listing will be special amongst all current listings in that it will be based purely on the idea of man made global warming. If the bear is listed it will put the US Fish and Wildlife Service somewhat in a position to have an effect on regulating CO2 emissions nation wide, in that the listing assumes the bear’s environment is being destroyed by man made green house gases. The ESA rule states the FWS needs to put in place a plan of action to bring the species back from endangerment thus regulation to affect greenhouse gas output would be needed. This situation will create an administrative quagmire as the EPA is legally in charge of this process for the nation not the FWS. CAFÉ standards and power plant emissions are two major areas of potential impact and/or future targets of green litigation due to the polar bear listing. Dept of Interior Secretrary Kempthorne has stated that the FWS has no authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. He further states that oil and gas exploration in the Alaskan Arctic should not be affected by the listing. Other impacts the upcoming polar bear decision include listing of other possibly threatened species under the same scientifically controversial reasoning as the polar bear’s global warming listing. Following the trail of environmental (particularly by the CBD) litigation and subsequent land and project closures the impact on America’s use of natural resources, energy production and farming could be huge.
For more on the polar bears and the ESA listing please see: