The final decision on listing all polar bear was not decided as I wrote this in mid-March. It may not be decided when you read this. Judging from the large numbers of emails and phone calls we have been receiving, there is keen interest in the outcome. Many hunters have forgone their hunts rather than risk that the bear may be listed and trophy imports will probably be prohibited to all hunters who don’t have a permit in hand before the effective date of the final listing rule, normally 30 days after date of publication in the Federal Register. The delay in the publication of the decision has caused some hunters to cancel rather than risk their $32,000. Ironically, the delay may also provide a window for import of bear during the delay period. In short, if the delay is until the end of the season, all the bear taken this winter and spring may come in.
We here at Conservation Force are convinced that the bear should not be listed in whole or part. Despite the media hype, the truth is that the great majority of the “substantive” comments opposed the listing. We know this to be a fact from doing Freedom of Information Act requests on both comment periods. Conservation Force itself provided opposition from five kinds of experts, i.e., legal, climate, ice, biological (polar bear) and cultural/sociological. They all substantively opposed the proposed listing. On the other hand, the USF&WS is renowned for listing foreign species over the objections of foreign range nations and a listing in this instance would give the US Fish & Wildlife Service an importance in everyone’s lives never before imagined.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace jointly filed another lawsuit in the US Federal District Court for Northern California (San Francisco) when the final rule was not published in early March. A decision was due in early January, but the petitioners had to give the USF&WS 60 days notice before suing under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The petitioners have made a big to-do in the media about its new suit, but it is really quite ordinary. In fact, it would be exceptional for the service to meet the technical deadlines set forth in the Endangered Species Act.
On another front, there is no substance to the political posturing in the media that the United Kingdom will soon ban polar bear trophy imports. That would require a unified action by the entire European Union, which has not yet reached the initial scientific review stage.
As I write this, Cambridge Bay has just had its coldest two days of the entire 2008 year to date - minus 47.2 degrees Fahrenheit for March 15 and 16. Seems we might be about to have an “Easter Freeze 2008” like the spring freeze that bit the eastern United States last April 2007. Of course, we can’t predict the weather even though it is a most popular thing to do for some.