'Not the end of the story'
While the administration declined to use the fast-track authority to overturn the ESA rule, Salazar and other Interior officials said they might pursue changing the rule through the regulatory process if polar bear populations decline.
"The decision today is not to withdraw that rule, but that is not the end of the story and not the end of the efforts," said Tom Strickland, the assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks. "We may look at whether there are things that need to be done through a rulemaking process."
Salazar said he would also be open to broader changes to ESA regulations – since the act faces new challenges as more species are protected due to threats from global climate change.
"The ESA has been a very useful tool," Salazar told reporters. "There may be ways in which the Endangered Species Act could be changed to make it more effective, so we could spend more money to protect habitat and species – is there a better way of doing what the Endangered Species Act is supposed to do?"
The legal complaint on the 4(d) rule is among a half-dozen lawsuits Interior faces on the polar bear listing.
Environmental groups have also sued to upgrade protections for the bear from "threatened" to "endangered," and the state of Alaska and the Pacific Legal Foundation filed two separate lawsuits that attempt to block protection of the bear. The administration also faces lawsuits from hunting groups that want their members to be able to bring back polar bear trophies from Canada.
The lawsuits are consolidated into a single case before U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan in the District of Columbia. Sullivan scheduled a conference for later this month, where the parties will likely work out a briefing schedule.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500