We truly are in never-neverland. First, the Bush administration did something to protect an animal species. Yes, that's what I said. The Bush administration did something pro-environment, for a change. That in and of itself is history-making.
But wait—it gets better. In protecting the beluga whale in Alaska, the Bush administration directly contravened the antienvironment administration of, you guessed it, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The Bush administration declared, according to the Los Angeles Times,
a small, isolated population of beluga whales in Alaska's Cook Inlet as endangered species, rejecting arguments from Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin that these small, white whales were on their way to recovery.
The National Marine Fisheries Service decided to extend federal protections to these whales near Anchorage after their numbers declined nearly 50% in the 1990s and the whales failed to rebound despite a decade-long program to revive the species.
Yes, folks, Palin (who never met a species she wouldn't be happy to hunt into oblivion) is, as usual, doing all she can to plunder Alaska's wilderness and destroy its sui generis wildlife. This time the joke's on her: She was undone by her very own GOP president.
As a practical matter, the new protections mean that new offshore oil drilling, a new bridge and other industrial activities that involve federal dollars or scrutiny will have to show that they will not harm the estimated 375 beluga whales that remain in local waters.
The decision came after Gov. Palin won a six-month postponement of the decision last year, arguing that she and state scientists believe the endangered status was "unwarranted" and that "we've actually seen the beginnings of an increase in their population."
Environmental victories are few, far between, and sweet when they do occur. This one is all the sweeter, as it pits two antienvironmentalists against each other and turns American politics upside down in the process.