7/1/2011 1:25:55 PM

U.S. Court Confirms Science, Upholds Polar Bear‰Ûªs Threatened Status

Polar bear leaping

A federal judge has ruled that polar bears should retain their status as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Art, confirming that scientific research shows that the bears are at risk from the loss of their sea ice habitat due to climate change.

In so ruling, the court rejected challenges from the state of Alaska and trophy hunters questioning whether the bears should be listed as threatened at all.

The decision fell short of extending endangered status (rather than threatened) to some polar bear subpopulations.

"This decision is an important affirmation that the science demonstrating that global warming is pushing the polar bear toward extinction simply cannot be denied," said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, one of the defendants in the lawsuit. "While we are disappointed that the polar bear will not receive the more protective endangered status it deserves, maintaining Endangered Species Act listing for the polar bear is a critical part of giving this species back its future." 

As the polar bear's sea ice habitat continues to shrink, scientists predict that it's only a matter of time before polar bears become endangered. Some subpopulations are already at great risk. An endangered listing would force action on reducing CO2, which scientists have linked to the rapid warming taking place in the Arctic.

Photo ©Daniel J. Cox/Natural Exposures.

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