Threatened species listing for polar bears contested in U.S. court

WASHINGTON Fri Oct 19, 2012 5:04pm EDT

A polar bear swims underwater at the St-Felicien Wildlife Zoo in St-Felicien, Quebec, in this October 31, 2011 file photo. Polar bears' designation as a threatened species was challenged in a U.S. appeals court on October 19, with a lawyer for Alaska and other parties arguing that regulators had failed to back up the listing. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger/Files

A polar bear swims underwater at the St-Felicien Wildlife Zoo in St-Felicien, Quebec, in this October 31, 2011 file photo. Polar bears' designation as a threatened species was challenged in a U.S. appeals court on October 19, with a lawyer for Alaska and other parties arguing that regulators had failed to back up the listing.

Credit: Reuters/Mathieu Belanger/Files

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Polar bears' designation as a threatened species was challenged in a U.S. appeals court on Friday, with a lawyer for Alaska and other parties arguing that regulators had failed to back up the listing.

Alaska and other plaintiffs that include hunters and the California Cattlemen's Association are appealing a federal court ruling last year that upheld the Interior Department's 2008 designation of the bears as threatened because their icy habitat is melting away.

Murray Feldman, a lawyer for Alaska and other appellants, told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the government had failed to show how the big white bears likely would be nearing extinction at the middle of this century.

The department's decision on the Arctic mammals was "arbitrary and capricious" since it was based on flawed models, Feldman said in oral arguments before a three-judge panel.

Katherine Hazard, a lawyer for the department's Fish and Wildlife Service, said that the designation relied on decades of research and long-term trends underpinned it.

"The agency needs to make a determination based on the best available science, which the agency did here," she said.

A designation that a species is threatens means that it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future in all or a significant part of its range.

Bruce Woods, a Fish and Wildlife spokesman, said the listing drew more attention to the bears' plight and also triggered funding for programs including patrols to limit contact with humans and a recovery plan for the bears.

Arctic sea ice shrank to a record low of 1.32 million square miles (3.41 million square km) by mid-September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency reported this month.

A decision by the appeals court is not expected for months.

Alaska and oil companies have argued that Endangered Species Act protections for polar bears diminish opportunities for Alaska energy development.

The state has said in its appeals court filing that bears have survived previous warming periods and most populations have grown or remained stable despite shrinkage of ice.

The case is Safari Club International et al v. Ken Salazar et al and Center for Biological Diversity et al, No. 11-5219.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Comments (7)
jaroca wrote:
Big oil and other “business interests” contesting….surprise, surprise. Whatever it takes for their profits. The rest of the natural world be damned if it gets in their way.

California Cattle guys best watch out…..never know when there might be a polar bear invasion or they get a hankering for a piece of steak.

When did we lose all sanity?

Oct 19, 2012 5:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
flashrooster wrote:
Expect to see a lot more of this, as global warming takes its toll. As the government tries to take steps to protect people and animal habitats from the dire effects of global warming, you’ll see wealthy people taking to court every issue that costs them money. What’s sad is that those are the people who will own our government and the courts, so they’ll get what they want. The same people who contributed so much to global warming will be the same people who keep our government from doing anything about it. They call people who don’t want to see us destroy our planet tree huggers.

Oct 20, 2012 11:58pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
flashrooster wrote:
jaroca: When did we lose all sanity? This video gives about the best answer to that question that I’ve heard. It’s long, but very well worth it: http://8020vision.com/2012/09/24/hedrick-smith-who-stole-the-american-dream/

Oct 20, 2012 12:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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