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Pressure Grows on Obama Administration to Protect Polar Bears

Andrew Wetzler

Posted June 28, 2012 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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polar bear (photo credit www.kewlwallpapers.com)

What’s the best thing we can do to help polar bears survive in a changing Arctic climate?  Give them as much time as possible so that maybe, just maybe, human beings can get a grip on global warming before the polar bear’s sea ice habitat disappears entirely.

And what’s the best way to buy the polar bear more time--say, through the end of this century?   End the commercial hunting of polar bears for profit.

The United States is in a position to help lead the world in doing just that at the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  There’s every reason to expect the United States to lead here; two years ago, President Obama sponsored a CITES resolution to end international commercial trade in polar bear parts.  But for some reason, the Administration seems to be waffling and calls for Presidential action are growing.

  • First, and perhaps most significantly, last week the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission--an independent federal agency charged with advising the U.S. government on marine mammal conservation--formally recommended that the United States propose a ban on the international commercial trade in polar bear parts.  This is an important turn of events, as the Marine Mammal Commission recommended against such a proposal just two years ago.
  • Second, over forty members of the House of Representatives and eight Senators (including Senator Cardin, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee and Barbara Boxer, who Chairs the Environment & Public Works Committee) wrote to the Administration also urging them to use CITES to end the commercial hunt in polar bears.
  • Finally, over 170,000 citizens wrote to the Department of the Interior requesting that the Administration end international trafficking in polar bear skins, skulls, claws, and teeth.  A petition and email campaign, asking the same thing of President Obama, is now circulating, and over 150,000 have signed it already, with more people taking action every day.

The next two months are crucial.  President Obama will decide whether to propose protecting the polar bear at CITES.  And the United States will decide whether it will once again lead the world in giving your grandchildren and mine the best possible chance of living on a planet where you can see polar bears outside of a zoo.  Because it just doesn’t get much cooler than that.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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