Gov. Sarah Palin – Polar Bears, Voter Initiatives and Librarians

Gov. Palin in a fur coatPresident George W. Bush’s administration is apparently too pro-environment, too protective of the dying polar bears, for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, pictured here in a photo by Ryan McFarland, at  

The acid-tongued pick of the Republican party to be vice president is actually suing the Bush Administration for the decision of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §1531 et seq.  The suit also challenges the finding polar bears are a "depleted" species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, 16 USCS §§ 1371, et seq.

In filing the suit Palin said, "We believe that the Service’s decision to list the polar bear was not based on the best scientific and commercial data available".

The listing could interfere with development of oil and gas in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, which provide habitat for the polar bears.  The Alaska Wildlife Alliance describes Gov. Palin as "selling out our wildlife to the highest bidder" and "willing to sell Alaska down the drain for a few oil-soaked dollars".  Her husband, Todd Palin, works for  BP (formerly British Petroleum). She herself was the chairperson for the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Palin has aggressively supported oil and gas development throughout Alaska.

This is the same Gov. Palin who spent $400,000 of state money to defeat a voter ballot initiative in August that would have ended the brutally cruel practice of aerial gunning of wolves, wolverines and bears.

Airborne gunning or shooting is a particularly cruel, a heinous way to "hunt" these animals. They are literally forced to run for their lives as planes or helicopters chase them. In Defense of Animals reports people have seen wolves vomiting from terror and stress as they try to escape death. Then once they are cornered or have stopped running from sheer exhaustion, the plane or helicopter closes in, and they are shot at point blank range. The wolves are killed randomly, mothers and pups along with males. This brutal plan fails to consider the effect of indiscriminate killing on the wolves’ social structure. There is no plan or thought of preserving at all the wolf population. Click here for more on Gov. Palin’s support of this horrific animal cruelty. Watch the video at the end of this article.

Palin also worked to defeat a ballot measure that would have provided added protections for salmon from potential contamination from mining. Her husband’s family runs a commercial fishing business.

But then Palin likes – strike that – loves to hunt and kill fish. The GOP actually showcased her love of slaughtering and butchering wildlife during the recent Republican Convention: Sen. Fred Thompson proclaimed, "[She is the] only nominee from either party who knows how to properly field dress a moose."

Gov. Sarah PalinIn fact, during this last legislative session Gov. Palin along with the state’s Board of Game proposed to amend the state’s laws to require the Board of Game to make sure hunters have even more moose, caribou and deer to kill. Gov. Palin wanted to do that by making sure the predators of these game animals, wolves, wolverines and brown bears, continue to die in large numbers in one of the most barbaric, cruelest means possible.  

The proposed bill would have required the Board of Game to identify populations of moose, caribou and deer where there could be a "high level of human harvest". The Board is to maintain this "high level" of "game" for hunting, in part, by destroying predators including wolves, wolverines and brown bears.  

Fortunately, this measure was defeated.

Palin also supports a state program in which the state pays a $150 bounty for the left foreleg of each dead wolf. It was her administration’s idea, in fact. Click here for Animal Law Coalition’s report on this bounty program and the court challenges to it.

Palin Shuts Down Opposition

And Gov. Palin doesn’t like opposition to her efforts to drill for oil and gas, hunt and fish.  She supported a bill that shut down any more voters’ ballot initiatives to protect wildlife. The bill passed, and now under Alaska law wildlife are defined as a state "asset" not subject to a public vote.  

Click here for more from Animal Law Coalition on the ballot initiative Palin worked to defeat and the bill she helped pass to stop voters from trying to protect wildlife through ballot initiatives.

That she would want to run over the rights of voters to bring ballot initiatives is no surprise. When she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin pushed out librarians in a flap over books she didn’t like in the public library.

Gov. Palin’s Lawsuit

Polar bear familyIn suing the Bush Administration over listing the polar bears as threatened, Gov. Palin argues in her lawsuit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service failed to make the determination based on the "best scientific and commercial data available" as required by the Endangered Species Act, 16 USC 1533(b)(1)(A).

Palin challenges the determination that polar bears are "likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future in all or a significant portion" of their range. 16 USC § 1532(20). Basically Palin says the projections showing the decimation of the polar bear populations from global warming are not accurate. 

Palin was dissatisfied with the models used to show seasonal ice loss from global warming.  She challenged that there may not be as much ice lost as claimed. She insists there is data showing a "high level of natural variability" in the climate and climate change models are unreliable beyond a decade. Indeed, she has dismissed global warming, saying, "I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made." ("Palin Speaks to Newsmax About McCain, Abortion, Climate Change", Newsmax. Retrieved on 200808-29

But last year summer sea ice was at a record low of approximately 1.65 million square miles, almost 40% less than the average amount from 1979 and 2000. Click here for more on FWS findings under the Endangered Species Act with respect to loss of polar bear habitat and the causes.

Palin claims that USFWS did not consider the current "healthy status" of polar bears and only assumed the species as a whole is in decline or facing a direct threat.  She thinks polar bears could adapt during these natural  warming periods that are, of course, unrelated to global warming.

She points out polar bears have survived other warming periods.  Huh?

Palin then claims the USFWS failed to consider efforts made by Alaska and foreign nations to protect polar bears as required by Endangered Species Act. Palin alludes to conservation measures taken by Alaska which she claims have led to sustainable polar bear populations worldwide.  It is illegal to hunt polar bears in Alaska except for Native Americans for subsistence, and there are some programs to protect denning and prevent harassment of the bears.  

Palin says overall polar bear subpopulations are stable and that with the males moving around, there will be a "healthy gene flow".  

Assuming they don’t drown from the melting ice.  

The lawsuit also says there was not enough of a public comment period for the determination polar bears are a depleted species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 5 USC § 533

Gov. Palin’s Op-Ed Piece 

The claims in the lawsuit echo Palin’s op-ed piece in the New York Times in which she says "a comprehensive review by state wildlife officials of scientific information from a broad range of climate, ice and polar bear experts" support her position that the polar bears should not be listed as a threatened or depleted species.

But an email released after publication of the op-ed piece shows, in fact, state wildlife officials agreed with the USFWS studies supporting the listing of the bears as a threatened species.

Reaction to Gov. Palin’s Lawsuit

Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity has been quoted as dismissing the governor’s lawsuit as "completely ridiculous and a waste of the court’s time." Siegel has said Palin has a "head in the sand approach to global warming …[that] only  helps oil companies".

Other lawsuits challenging the USFWS listing of the polar bear

Polar bear and cubsPalin is not the only one challenging the listing, however.

The American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Iron and Steel Institute have filed a lawsuit claiming it is irrational and arbitrary and capricious to require them to comply with restrictions to protect the polar bear including obtaining a permit to carry out their "lawful activit[ies]" of mining, drilling for oil, etc.

Under the Endangered Species Act, if an animal is listed as threatened, typically consultation with FWS is required for actions that could affect a threatened species. 16 USC §§1536(a)(2), 1538.  Also, a permit is required for any otherwise lawful activity that may result in an incidental taking of the threatened species. 16 USC §1539; 50 CFR 17.32

USFWS usually exempts activities involving greenhouse emissions because of its determination it is not possible to link emissions from a particular source to the harm caused to the species. 73 Fed. Reg. 28313; Rule 4(d) In this case, though, USFWS did not exempt activities involving greenhouse emissions in Alaska. 73 Fed. Reg. 28211, 28306 (May 18, 2008); 50 CFR 17.40(q)

These industries challenge what is called the Alaska Gap, claiming in view of the finding emissions activities cannot be linked to a particular harm, it is irrational to require them to comply with restrictions to protect the polar bear as a threatened species, in particular, obtain a permit for their oil and gas development and other activities in Alaska but not other states.  50 CFR 17.31, 17.32, 17.40

Of course, there are no polar bears in the other states. If polar bears are dying because of loss of habitat, the ice, from global warming, it makes sense to curtail or at least regulate green house emissions where they are struggling to survive – Alaska.  

Brendan Cummings, the oceans program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, is quoted as saying, this lawsuit is another effort to "make the polar bear’s protections more meaningless than they already are."

One of the industry plaintiffs in this case, the National Association of Manufacturers, has praised the choice of Palin as the Republican nominee for vice president, pointing out her promotion of oil and gas exploration in Alaska.

The trophy hunters are also suing over the listing of polar bears as "depleted" under the MMPA.  Safari International has brought a lawsuit, pointing out the MMPA allows some hunting of polar bears in Canada. 16 USC 1374(c)(5) In finding the polar bear was a depleted species under MMPA, the FWS banned importation of skins or other bear parts or "trophies" from what is called "sport" hunting.  

The hunting groups claim this action by FWS violates the MMPA. But the statutory authority allowing such hunting is at the discretion of USFWS. 16 USC 1374(c)(5)

For its part, the Center for Biological Diversity is suing the Bush Administration, arguing polar bears should have been listed as an endangered not merely threatened species.  

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