Polar bear protections pending

Years after a petition and subsequent legal wrangling with the Bush administration, conservation groups may finally see an end to their quest to protect polar bears.

Early last week, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Interior Department to make a decision by mid-month as to whether the species should be listed as threatened due to the effects of global warming.

Research by the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado has concluded that the bears’ Arctic summer habitat has dwindled nearly 40 percent from the average recorded between 1979 and 2000. The Center for Biological Diversity and the other petitioners of the lawsuit also point to a recent U.S. Geological Survey predicting that two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population likely would be extinct by 2050.

In her written ruling, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken denied the department’s request to delay a decision until the end of June, noting that the agency was already in violation of the Endangered Species Act by missing its previous deadline back in early January.