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Polar Bear ‘Threatened,’ Pending New USFWS Rule

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reissued a May 2008 rule temporarily protecting the polar bear as a threatened species until it can rewrite permanent rules vacated by a D.C. Circuit Court judge in October 2011.

On May 15, 2008 the USFWS listed the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and issued temporary rules protecting it which were finalized in December of that year. Environmental groups accused the George W. Bush administration of playing politics by listing the species as threatened rather than endangered, and violating the National Environmental Policy Act by not completing an environmental impact statement before issuing the final rules.

Suits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife were consolidated before District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who upheld the threatened designation but agreed that at least a preliminary environmental impact statement was mandated by NEPA.

Judge Sullivan vacated and remanded the December rules and ordered the temporary rules from May 2008 to be reinstated until the USFWS prepares the environmental impact statement and proposes new final rules.

The May rules apply protections already contained in the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

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