London: The Obama administration has confirmed an earlier Bush-era decision that polar bears are merely ‘threatened’ rather than ‘endangered’.
The US Department of the Interior has upheld a decision to classify the bear as ‘threatened’ - a status that gives them less protection under the law, a leading English news channel reported.
The government said it did not find that polar bears were on the brink of extinction, needed to qualify for the status of ‘endangered’.
Under the Endangered Species Act, the status of ‘endangered’ requires the government to assess the impact of greenhouse gases on the bears`` Arctic homelands.
When the government is considering permits for oil development in northern Alaska, it must include greenhouse gas emissions in its decision.
When the polar bear was listed as ‘threatened’ by the administration of former US President George W Bush, officials invoked a special rule saying the Endangered Species Act could not be used to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
So an ‘endangered’ listing is a more powerful tool for limiting industrial activity that causes greenhouse gases.
Meanwhile, environmental campaigners have said they will challenge the decision.
The Centre for Biological Diversity - one of the groups trying to get the polar bear listed as ‘endangered’ - said the ruling showed that the administration of US President Barack Obama was continuing to defend Bush-era ‘anti-science decisions’.
It said polar bears face an 80 percent chance of extinction within 40 years and it will continue to challenge the US government in court.