Kerry on Decision to Add Polar Bear to Endangered Species List
Sen. Kerry made the following statement today after Sec. of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced that he would list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Kerry sponsored legislation earlier this year to protect polar bear habitat from drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, and he wrote a letter to Kempthorne earlier this week, asking that he adhere to a Federal court-ordered deadline by listing the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act.
"Today's announcement is both a victory and a lifeline for our last remaining polar bears. The next step is to secure the long-term survival of the species by ensuring that the polar bear habitat in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas is protected from the threat of oil and gas drilling. Even while the Interior Department was taking steps to give these bears ESA protection, the Bush Administration opened almost 30 million acres of polar bear habitat to oil and gas exploration, which -- by their own admission -- may ultimately kill polar bears. We need to protect the bears' habitat, and we must do so now. The polar bear has become the mascot of all we could lose to climate change and it is critical that we fight to save this species even as we wage a larger battle against global warming."
The original deadline for polar bear listing was January 9, 2008. The delay in listing has allowed the Administration to move forward with oil and gas lease sales in over 30 million acres of prime polar bear habitat in Alaska's Chukchi Sea, without any consideration of the impact of drilling on the resident polar bear population. Kerry introduced legislation earlier this year that would halt all exploration activity in the Beaufort and Chukcki Seas until we better understand the full impact of drilling on the polar bear and other imperiled species.