Nunavut optimistic with U.S. delay on polar bear decision
'No news is good news,' environment minister says of 2-month delay
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 11, 2008 | 12:07 PM CT
Nunavut politicians hope the U.S. government's delay in deciding whether to list polar bears as a threatened species bodes well for the territory, which is opposed to the idea.
It has been just over two months since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was supposed to announce its decision on whether it will make polar bears a threatened species under its Endangered Species Act.
The service received a one-month extension on its initial Jan. 9 deadline, but it has passed that deadline by one month, and counting.
"No news is good news for us," Environment Minister Olayuk Akesuk said Monday.
"We anticipated [a decision] two months ago, and up to now there's nothing. So we're still hoping for the best decision from them."
Environmental groups contend that polar bears must be protected because they are losing their sea ice habitat as a result of global warming.
But the Nunavut government and Inuit hunters oppose the idea.
They argue a threatened status would likely kill the American sport hunt for polar bears in Nunavut and the N.W.T. That annual hunt is getting underway.
Akesuk said concerns about the polar bears' survival are based on predictions for the future, as opposed to the current reality. He added that Nunavut has kept its polar bear populations healthy.
"I do believe we have a very good population and we've done a great job managing these polar bears," he said.
Rankin Inlet North MLA Tagak Curley echoed Akesuk's sentiment, saying any delay in this case "is good for Nunavut.
"It gives us certainly more time to look through opportunities and options to seek support from elsewhere," Curley said.
Delays are common: fish and wildlife official
Three conservation groups indicated Monday they are suing the U.S. government for failing to deliver a timely decision on the polar bears' status.
But officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told CBC News that delays are common.
"To be two months late on a decision is not unusual for the Fish and Wildlife Service, just because of the workload and limited resources and staff," spokeswoman Valerie Fellows said.
"It's just unusual because in the case of the polar bear, there's this much attention on the decision and the delay in the decision."
The Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defence Council and Greenpeace are suing the government in Federal Court in San Francisco, the Associated Press reported.
The groups' complaint has prompted the inspector general of the U.S. Department of the Interior to begin a preliminary investigation into what's causing the delay.
But Fellows said there is still no indication when it will announce its decision.
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