Polar Bear Attempts to Deliver Over 50,000 Petitions to Interior Secretary Salazar in Anchorage Requesting He Rescind Bush Regul

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Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Polar Bear Attempts to Deliver Over 50,000 Petitions to Interior Secretary Salazar in Anchorage Requesting He Rescind Bush Regul

Polar Bear Will Try Again in San Francisco

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A polar bear today attempted to deliver nearly 52,000 petitions
to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar requesting that he rescind two rules
passed in the final days of the Bush administration that weaken the
Endangered Species Act. One of these rules exempts thousands of federal
activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review
under the Endangered Species Act, and the other sharply limits
protections for the threatened polar bear.

Secretary Salazar was in Anchorage for hearings on oil drilling on the
Outer Continental Shelf. Under the Bush administration rules, the
impacts of such drilling on climate and the polar bear would be exempt
from consideration under the Endangered Species Act. Secretary Salazar
will be in San Francisco on Thursday for further hearings, when a polar
bear will again try to deliver more petitions.

“We
hope that Interior Secretary Salazar will honor President Obama’s
campaign pledge and immediately revoke the damaging Bush Endangered
Species Rules by the May 9 deadline,” said Rebecca Noblin, staff
attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity in Anchorage. “Polar
bears don’t have any more time to wait, they need full protection now.”

Congress passed legislation on March 10 giving Secretary Salazar power
during the following 60 days to rescind both rules with the stroke of a
pen or until May 9. Despite the fact that 35 days have passed,
Secretary Salazar has given no indication of whether he will use the
power granted by Congress. On April 3, 44 members of the House of
Representatives, including seven committee chairman and several other
high-ranking leaders, sent a letter to secretaries Salazar and Locke urging them to use the authority to rescind the rules.

The Bush rules allow federal agencies to determine for themselves
whether their actions are likely to harm endangered species and thus
whether they need independent scientific review by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries services. The rules also
prohibit any consideration of the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions
from federal projects on endangered species like the polar bear.
Greenhouse gas emissions are currently predicted to result in loss of
two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population by 2050. If the rules
are allowed to remain in place, the Fish and Wildlife Service will not
be able to consider and mitigate such impacts.

“These regulations are a recipe for extinction for the polar bear and
hundreds of other endangered species,” said Noblin. “We need to know
whether Secretary Salazar will live up to President Obama’s commitment
to support a strong Endangered Species Act.”

Many
of the species that call Alaska’s outer continental shelf home –
including threatened polar bears, Pacific walruses, and ice seals –
face dire threats from climate change. Saving these species from
offshore oil development and climate change will require the full
protections of the Endangered Species Act.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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