Polar bears, Phote by Naturespicsonline.com AlanWilson -CCA federal judge today upheld a May 2008 decision that polar bears throughout their range should be protected as a “threatened” species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed challenges by the state of Alaska and others seeking to strip the polar bear of its protection. Sullivan ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to protect the bear due to the melting of the Arctic sea ice was well supported.

The polar bear was the first species added to the Endangered Species List due solely to the threat from global warming. The Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC and Greenpeace had intervened as defendants in the case to support maintaining protections for the bear.

“This decision is an important affirmation that the science demonstrating that global warming is pushing the polar bear toward extinction simply cannot be denied,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.  “Maintaining Endangered Species Act listing for the polar bear is a critical part of giving this species back its future.”

“Today’s court decision confirms that polar bears are on a collision course with global warming,” said Andrew Wetzler, director of NRDC’s land and wildlife program. “Now that the courts made clear the danger, we need to act quickly to address the looming issue that imperils a lot more than these bears.”

Greenpeace said it will redouble its efforts to protect the polar bear’s Arctic Ocean ice habitat, which is melting away due of climate change. Estimates forecast the bear’s extinction in about 40 years if progress to reduce carbon emissions does not continue.

Photo by Naturespicsonline.com Alan Wilson -CC

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