Environmentalists Attempting to Misuse ESA With Lawsuit

US Sportsmen's Alliance, Bear Hunting Magazine
03/19/2008

Last week, environmentalists filed a much anticipated and highly controversial lawsuit challenging the listing of polar bears.

Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council have filed a lawsuit against Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in an attempt to force the listing of the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The suit claims that government violated the ESA by not acting on the listing in a timely manner.

Just look at the organizations named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. It is clear that the goal here is to use the ESA to gain an edge in their greenhouse gas emissions agenda, said Rick Story, senior vice president of the U.S. Sportsmens Alliance (USSA). Listing abundant polar bears as endangered makes a mockery of the Endangered Species Act and is not the way to accomplish effective change.

The FWS was scheduled to make a final determination in January 2008 whether to list the polar bear as a federally threatened species, but that determination has to this point been delayed. The proposal to list the animals is a political gesture that was put forth after environmental groups threatened to sue the government.

In 2007, federal lawmakers protected polar bear hunting by eliminating language that would have prohibited American big game hunters from importing Canadian polar bear trophies. The language was excluded from the 2008 Interior Appropriations Bill, which passed Dec. 19.

The anti-hunting language had been included in the Senate version of the bill, but sportsmens grassroots action in June kept it out of the House adaptation.

The U.S. Sportsmens Alliance worked with the National Rifle Association to convince lawmakers to omit the anti-hunting language from the omnibus bill. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-CO; Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA; and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK played vital roles in protecting the hunt. The USSA also credits Rep. Ron Kind, D-WI; Rep. Don Young, R-AK; Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-KS; and Rep. Dan Boren, D-OK for their aid in defeating the anti-hunting amendment that appeared in the House version of the bill last summer.

Polar bear populations are at historic highs and there are no imminent threats to the healthy, huntable populations according to scientific data. The listing will put effective polar bear conservation in jeopardy, but the loss of Arctic sea ice, which the service identifies as the formidable threat to the bear populations, will not be addressed.

It is clear to us the agenda of the plaintiffs, said Story. Once polar bears are listed, they will have the tool necessary to force federal policy to further limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Sportsmen from the United States comprise approximately 90 percent of the foreign hunters in Canada, contributing millions of dollars annually into polar bear conservation and management, as well as providing financial benefits to local communities. Essential funding for conservation and research that allows for continued success of the populations comes from Americans.



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