Environmental Friends and Foes

As the Bush administration turns a blind eye, at least the polar bears have allies in Congress.

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The foes are the Bush administration's Fish and Wildlife Service. Why? The administration has been petitioned to list the polar bear as "threatened" as a first step toward protecting its habitat under the Endangered Species Act. That decision was supposed to be made earlier this year, and bureaucrats stalled for at least a month.

There's so much melting of polar ice, it's hardly a question among those in the know and those who care whether the bear is threatened or not: Of course it is! Some members of the House Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming ask whether "the delay [is] caused by a rush to sell the polar bears' habitat to oil companies for drilling first."

Is it merely a coincidence that another branch of the Interior Department is considering an oil and gas drilling lease on much of the habitat that would be protected if the polar bear were listed as threatened? Methinks not, and neither do the bears' friends in Congress.

For the record, a U.S. Geological Survey official testified that the bears' population is expected to dwindle by two thirds during the next 50 years if their habitat isn't protected.

As if one environmental onslaught were not enough in one week, the president himself declared the Navy's use of sonar "essential to national security" and exempted "the Navy's upcoming training missions in Southern California waters from environmental laws that prompted court-ordered restrictions on using sonar linked to injuries of whales and dolphins."

Steel yourselves, environmentalists—there's about one more year to go.