May 16, 2008
Bush Backhands the Polar Bear
After months of delay and denial, the Bush Administration basked in the glow of the front-page news stories announcing its decision to finally list the polar as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act. Not even a last minute push by Vice President Cheney could stop the listing. (No word on whether he will embark on a hunting trip to personally shoot the remaining bears in the face.)
But after seven long years of chicanery and deception, many of us know to read the fine print when it comes to anything the Bush administration does. This time, however, they didn't even bother to hide the devil in the details. They put it right in the headline: "Rule will allow continuation of vital energy production in Alaska."
In other words, the billions of dollars in leases the Minerals Management Service (part of the Department of Interior) rushed to sell to Big Oil while another part of Interior mysteriously delayed listing the polar bear are still good as gold -- black gold anyway. This means that the Polar Bear Seas in the Arctic will be subject to seismic blasting as early as this summer and the area will be inundated with pipelines, well pads, boat traffic, and ice-breaking vessels, not to mention the ever-present threat of oil spills.
The nefariousness didn't end there. Our own Carl Pope said the administration's sham plan is "riddled with loopholes, caveats, and backhanded language that could actually undermine protections for the polar bear and other species."
For instance, the Bush plan calls for "common sense modifications to the existing Endangered Species Act." Given where this administration’s other "common sense" policies have lead us, I tremble to think of just how they'd like to eviscerate the ESA. If the "Healthy Forests" and "Clear Skies" are initiatives are any indication, it won't be pretty.
But the most audacious part of their so-called plan involves "steps" to make sure that this ruling and the ESA itself are in no way actually used to do anything about global warming -- precisely what is pushing the polar bear toward extinction.
Nothing like checking the polar bear into the ER and then leaving him in the waiting room to die.