Thursday, October 22, 2009

Will the Madness Never End? 200,000 Square Miles for Polar Bears

I'm adorable; but come any closer and I'll rip your face off.

AP article on the Obama administration's move to designate 200,000 square miles for Polar Bears:

The Obama administration said Thursday it is designating more than 200,000 square miles in Alaska and off its coast as "critical habitat" for polar bears, an action that could add restrictions to future offshore drilling for oil and gas.

Federal law prohibits agencies from taking actions that may adversely affect critical habitat and interfere with polar bear recovery....

The total area proposed for critical habitat designation would cover about 200,541 square miles — about half in the rugged Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast. About 93 percent of the area proposed for the polar bear is sea ice, with the remaining 7 percent made up of barrier islands or land-based dens of snow and ice.

Designation as critical habitat would not, in itself, bar oil or gas development, but would make consideration of the effect on polar bears and their habitat an explicit part of any government-approved activity.

Thursday's announcement starts a 60-day public comment period, with a final rule expected next year. Interior faces a June 30 deadline for critical habitat designation under terms of a settlement agreement between the government and three environmental groups.

Environmental groups hailed the habitat announcement, but noted that it came in the same week that the Interior Department approved a plan by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell to drill exploratory wells on two leases in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's north coast. The proposed drilling sites are within the area proposed for critical habitat designation....

The announcement comes one day after the state of Alaska filed a new complaint in its effort to overturn the listing of the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Former Gov. Sarah Palin filed suit last year, saying that Interior did not respond to the state's concerns in a timely manner before listing the polar bears as threatened. State officials say the listing could cripple offshore oil and gas development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, which provide prime habitat for the polar bears.

Gov. Sean Parnell, who succeeded Palin upon her resignation last summer, said the Endangered Species Act was being used as a way to shut down resource development along Alaska's northern coast. Parnell said he does not intend to let that happen.

Here's Governor Palin on Glenn Beck last year (before the VP nomination) talking about the polar bear lawsuit.

Nothing is set in stone just yet; I expect Governor Parnell to come down hard on this, if not Sarah Palin herself.

I'm all for protecting a species, but can we have a modicum of common sense while we do it? Is that too much to ask? (sigh) Apparently.

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