Polar Bears Listed as Threatened

Updated, Bear Hunting Magazine

Polar bears will be listed as " threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne made the announcement. "I believe this decision is most consistent with the record and legal standards of the Endangered Species Act, perhaps the least flexible law Congress has ever enacted," Kempthorne said.

"I am also announcing that this listing decision will be accompanied by administrative guidance and a rule that defines the scope of impact my decision will have, in order to protect the polar bear while preventing unintended harm to the society and economy of the United States," he said.

On Thursday, May 15th, the USF&WS published the Final Polar Bear Rule announced by the Secretary of the Interior on the 13th. It lists all polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Worse, it makes the listing effective immediately as an Oakland, California federal district court ordered.

The effect, according to the Final Rule, is to prohibit importation of any polar bear hunting trophy on or after, May 15, 2008. Nevertheless, on Monday of this week, Conservation Force succeeded in getting the federal court that ordered the immediate effect to reconsider its order. The court has ordered the USF&WS to file a brief on the issue, given the plaintiffs the same opportunity and will permit Conservation Force five days to reply. Conservation Force has also persuaded the USF&WS not to deny and return pending permit applications until the court reconsiders its order that the Rule be made effective immediately upon publication.

Normally there is a statutory requirement that the public be given no less than 30 days notice before a Final Rule is made effective. In this case the argument is that the bear were already taken in a pre-approved hunt recognized by IUCN to be a conservation hunt, i.e., one that benefits the species. The permitting process is so convoluted that there should be an even greater grace period for continued import of bear already taken.

There are an estimated 60 hunters who have spent tens of thousands of dollars each who may never be able to import their lawfully taken trophies if Conservation Force does not prevail on its motion.

The Secretary of Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, in his press conference on Wednesday, frankly stated that the listing will stop the import of hunting trophies from Canada, but will have little other effect. The ESA is inflexible and has no provision for taking into consideration the adverse impacts such as interruption of Canadas important sport hunting program, according to Kempthorne.

There are thought to be about 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears currently in the Arctic.

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