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Decision on Polar Bear Listing Delayed

January 8, 2008.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has postponed issuing a decision on whether to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The decision, which had been due January 9th, will be delayed by one month.

A listing of the polar bear would prevent importation of trophies in to the US, effectively ending the hunting of polar bears by US citizens, which account for the majority of sport polar bear hunters worldwide.

The consideration of the listing was undertaken based on projections that global climate change will destroy much of the polar bear's habitat (sea ice) over the next 50 years, severely reducing polar bear populations.

This is the first time that a listing has been considered based on the impacts of climate change, and the controversy around this issue was cited as the key reason for the delay in the USFWS decision.

Hunters and conservationists, on the one hand, know that sport hunting has no practical impact on global polar bear populations, and want to protect this great tradition. On the other hand, hunters know better than anyone that habitat must be protected in order to enable hunting.

Inuit communities in Canada, caught in the middle of this issue, continue to await the decision from the US government as to whether their US clients will be able to go hunting. The government of the Canadian province of Nunavut estimates that the sport polar bear hunting generates $1.6 million a year in remote communities with few other ways to raise money.

Expect more on this issue in early February.

A polar bear hunting on the sea ice:

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