Listing polar bears wrong move

by the Honorable Sarah Palin — the 11th, and first woman, governor of Alaska.

Full text [here] and below:

The entire world has seen animated holiday images of cute, cuddly, polar bears smiling and dancing — and pitching cold soft drinks on TV and movie screens.

That’s the closest most Americans will ever get to a polar bear. To steal a line from one of the commercials, it’s not “the real thing.”

It’s unfortunate, because polar bears are magnificent animals, not cartoon characters. They are worthy of our utmost efforts to conserve them and their Arctic habitat.

For Alaska, that means recognizing that although climate change is a serious concern for everyone on the planet, it is not the only issue surrounding polar bears.

To help ensure that polar bears are around for centuries, Alaska has engaged in research and worked with the federal government to protect them. This includes a ban on most hunting — only Alaska Native subsistence families can hunt polar bears — and habitat protection measures such as set-asides around known denning areas to prevent bear harassment.

We are also participating in international efforts aimed at conserving polar bears worldwide.

The state takes very seriously its job of protecting polar bears and their habitat and is well aware of the problems caused by climate change.

But we know it will take more than protecting what we have — it means learning what we don’t know, which is why state biologists are studying the health of polar bear populations and their habitat.

As a result of those efforts, polar bears are more numerous now than they were 40 years ago. Despite what some may want you to believe, the polar bear population in the southern Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s North Slope has been stable for 20 years.

Listing the bears under the Endangered Species Act is the wrong move at this time. My decision is based on a comprehensive review by state wildlife officials of scientific information from a broad range of climate, ice and polar bear experts.

There is insufficient evidence that polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct within the foreseeable future — the trigger for protection under the ESA. And there is no evidence that polar bears are being mismanaged through existing international agreements and the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

We’re not against protecting species under the ESA. Alaska has supported listings of other species, such as the Aleutian Canada Goose. The law worked as it should — the species was near extinction and a recovery plan resulted in goose recovery and delisting under the act.

Listing a currently healthy species such as the polar bear is based on uncertain modeling of possible effects. The listing is not justified.

The group asking for the polar bear listing recently disclosed that its goal is to force the government to either stop or severely limit any public or private action that produces, or even allows, the production of greenhouse gases. Such limits should be adopted through an open process where environmental issues are weighed against economic and social needs, and where scientists debate and present information that policymakers need to make the best decisions. But the act actually prohibits any consideration of broader issues.

Climate change is a serious issue and I urge all Americans to get involved by offering comments and suggestions to their state governments for action. But listing the polar bear as threatened is the wrong way to get to the right answer.

January 8, 2008 | Leave a Comment | Topic:  Endangered Specious

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