On Friday, a group of plaintiffs including Alaska (which has already argued elsewhere along with oil companies that protections for polar bears diminish opportunities for exploiting Alaska’s energy resources), hunters, and of all things, the California Cattlemen’s Association, challenged the protection status of polar bears. The parties argued that listing polar bears as a threatened species by the Interior Department was “arbitrary and capricious.”
The plaintiffs, including Alaska and other vested interests are appealing a federal court ruling that upheld the status of polar bears as threatened species as their icy habitat is receding at a fast rate. Katherine Hazard, a lawyer for the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service said polar bears had been declared as ‘threatened’ species based on decades of research and long-term trends. She said, “The agency needs to make a determination based on the best available science, which the agency did here.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s report this month, Arctic sea ice shrank to a record low of 1.32 million square miles by mid-September, significantly threatening the habitat of polar bears.
However, Murray Feldman, a lawyer representing Alaska, and other appellants told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the decision to list polar bears as ‘threatened’ species was based on flawed models. According to Alaska, polar bears have survived prior global warming periods and despite shrinkage of ice, populations of polar bears have remained stable. So, digging around for oil, or hunting some, obviously, is not going to affect their lot.
A species is designated as ‘threatened’ when scientific findings indicate that the species is likely to become endangered in all or a significant part of its habitat in the near future.
The lawyer for Alaska maintains that the U.S. government had failed to show how polar bears would be nearing extinction by the middle of this century.