I recently received a note from a contact in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that shed some additional light on why the State of Alaska has opposed the US Fish & Wildlife Service's proposal to list polar bears as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Here's the text of a letter that went to the USFWS that summarized the state's objections:
The State of Alaska opposes any listing under the Endangered Species Act of the polar bear as threatened in all or significant portions of its range. Our review of the Fish and Wildlife Service's 12-month finding on a petition to list polar bears reveals that the best available scientific and commercial information was not used as required in the proposed determination. To the contrary, the very foundation of the proposed listing is the selective use of models to predict loss of summer sea ice over the next 45 years. The models used by the Service do not consider other models that are at least equally valid and predict less loss of summer sea ice in the future. Furthermore, the disclaimers accompanying the models used by the Service regarding the limitations of their predictive ability were largely ignored.The letter is signed by Tina Cunning, Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Fish and Game.
Accompanying this letter are the State of Alaska's consolidated state agency comments, additional data, and analyses as requested in the January 9, 2007, (Federal Register Vol. 72, No. 5) proposal to list the polar bear as threatened throughout its range pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. These include: 1) a thorough review of additional sea ice models and their predictions of sea ice loss, 2) additional information on existing regulatory mechanisms for conservation of polar bears, 3) clarification on the standards for a threatened listing, and 4) additional information on and clarification of the status, trends, and assumptions concerning polar bear populations that the Service used to support the petition and Status Assessment.
The State stands by its earlier conclusion that polar bears are abundant, stable, and unthreatened by direct human activity. The 19 recognized subpopulations of polar bears worldwide are well managed through international agreements and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The State of Alaska is deeply concerned that listing this species would harm many of the existing and highly successful polar bear conservation measures currently in place under these international agreements and treaties.
We appreciate and accept your offer to continue to participate in this process as a peer reviewer and look forward to cooperatively assessing further information received during the comment period. We urge the Service to carefully review the enclosed information and to revise its finding based upon this additional information to conclude that a listing of the polar bear as threatened is not warranted throughout any portion of its range.
What do you think? Should polar bears be listed as threatened?