The plight of polar bears has always been a bit more complicated than most of the other species marked for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Unlike the mostly at-hand, regional threats faced by some imperiled species, the poloar bears' survival has been thrown into question from a far more extensive source: global climate change, spurred by the burning of fossil fuels.
That said, one would assume that policy-makers might aim for a holistic approach towards their dutiful protection of polar bears, but instead, they've chosen to take that option off the table.
From the Center for Biological Diversity:
The Obama administration announced today that it is reissuing a Bush-era regulation that sharply limits protections for polar bears under the Endangered Species Act. Both the current proposal and the previous Bush rule exclude activities occurring outside the range of polar bears — such as the greenhouse gas emissions of industrial polluters like coal plants — from regulations that could help stop the bear’s extinction. Today’s announcement comes as a result of a court order that struck down the Bush rule in October 2011.
Simply put, says the CBD, the "very purpose of the rule is to exempt greenhouse emissions from the reach of the [Endangered Species] Act" -- the same legislation which mandates conservation of the threatened species.
“If polar bears are to survive we have to directly confront the greatest threat to them: our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, in a press release. “But the Obama administration seems to be living in a fantasy world where the way to solve a difficult problem is to deny its existence.”
“With their sea-ice habitat rapidly disappearing, polar bears need the full protection of the Endangered Species Act. President Obama’s proposal for these magnificent and imperiled animals is a gift to Big Oil and an affirmation of the pro-industry policies of the Bush government. When it comes to saving urgently endangered polar bears, the only ‘change’ Obama has delivered is more climate change.”