Endangered status might not help, official says

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2008

WASHINGTON - Even if polar bears are listed as threatened, the Endangered Species Act may not be the proper vehicle to slow global warming or, especially, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday.

Dale Hall said the use of the act would trigger regulatory processes that would do nothing to slow the loss of the polar bears' habitat due to global warming.

"The polar bear should not be the focus," Hall said after he testified at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. "The focus should be global climate change and global warming, and how we address aspects of that, and that is, greenhouse gas emissions. As a world community we need to be doing that, and in the United States, we need to be doing that."

If polar bears are listed as endangered, they'll be the first species that's on the list because global warming threatens its habitat.

Hall said Wednesday that he had concerns about using the Endangered Species Act to address what threatened the polar bear's habitat the most: rising global temperatures.

"You can use the polar bear as an educational tool on this," Hall said. "But climate change is a bit bigger than that. Those kind of symbolic relationships are good, but we must first make sure that the law is followed and that if a species is on the list, it deserves to be on the list. This is an issue that's much larger than just a listing on the endangered species list."

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