San Francisco Chronicle

Obama team retains Bush polar bear policy
San Francisco Chronicle

The Obama administration has decided to keep a Bush-era policy on polar bears – declining to crack down on greenhouse-gas polluters on the grounds that their emissions are helping shrink the bears’ habitat on Arctic sea ice, officials announced Friday.

The problem of climate change is so big, and so complicated, that it would essentially overwhelm the bureaucracy created to protect threatened and endangered species, officials said.

Friday’s decision was criticized by environmental groups: John Kostyack, of Defenders of Wildlife, conceded that it would have been difficult to tackle a massive problem like greenhouse gases through the endangered species bureaucracy. But he said that should not be a reason formally to let polluters off the hook.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hailed the decision as a « clear victory for Alaska » because it removes the link between bear protection and climate change and should help North Slope oil and gas development. Both of Alaska’s senators and its only House member also praised the decision and rejected claims that the bear won’t be protected.