Polar Bears and the ESA, the Implications

By June 10, 2008General

From Jonathan Adler, blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy, An Animal to Save the World“:

Lawyers at the Center for Biological Diversity spent years looking for “an animal to save the world.” Their criteria: A charismatic animal dependent upon arctic ice habitat threatened by global warming that could be listed under the Endangered Species Act. The Kittlitz’s murrelet didn’t cut it, nor did an arctic spider or Carribean coral species. The polar bear, however, is another story. This year the polar bear joined the nearly 2,000 species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA, and instantly became the new mascot for global warming policy. The question now is whether the polar bear will be more than just a symbol.

I discussed this issue yesterday on a panel at AEI with Bryan Arroyo, assistant director for the Endangered Species Program at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If a video or transcript of the event become available, I will post a link.

Arroyo and I agreed on many of the legal implications of the polar bear listing. For instance, listing the polar bear as “threatened” triggers its classification as a “depleted species” under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). This means an immediate ban on the importation of sport-hunting trophies from Canada. Why does this matter? Because sport-hunting (like it or not) is an important source of revenue for community-based conservation programs. Such programs have been important for polar bear conservation in Canada, and will become ever more important if the loss of arctic sea ice habitat is a big a threat to polar bear survival as many fear.

Adler does find some of the conservative critiques to be, well, overheated, saying it’s hardly likely that a power plant will be closed for a “taking” of a polar bear.

AEI has background materials here. As for the Center for Biological Diversity, well:

An Arctic Icon Changes the World
Meet the beloved bear that made the Bush administration sit up and take notice of the effects of global warming — if not its causes.

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