Court settlement pushes U.S. agency to decide if Pacific walrus is threatened species – North

An American federal agency faces a deadline this week to decide whether the iconic Pacific walrus will join the polar bear on the threatened species list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a court settlement has until Saturday to decide whether the Pacific walrus should be put on the list because of threats to its sea ice habitat due to climate change.

Walruses use sea ice as platforms for resting, feeding and nursing. In spring, ice in the Bering Sea melts and the edge gradually recedes north through the Bering Strait and into the Chukchi Sea.

Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity, in February 2008 filed the petition that called for the listing. The need has not diminished, she said Tuesday.

“The science is absolutely clear that the walrus is in trouble from climate change and it’s already waited much too long for protection,” Wolf said.

President Trump, Alaska, oppose designation

President Donald Trump has called climate change a “total con job” and “hoax” perpetrated to harm U.S. economic
competitiveness.

He has pushed to scrap Obama-era initiatives that sought to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources and announced that the country would pull out of the 2015 Paris climate accord, in which nearly 200 nations pledged to reduce carbon emissions. 

Diminished sea ice brought on by climate change in recent years has forced walruses to the Russian and Alaskan coasts in herds of 35,000 or more. (Joel Garlich-Miller/U.S. Fish and Wildlife/The Associated Press)

The state of Alaska in unsuccessful lawsuits challenged the listing of polar bears and ringed seals and opposes the walrus listing.

The director of the state division of Wildlife Conservation Bruce Dale said Wednesday that the walrus population is robust and listing the species based on uncertain future climate change is not justified.

“They’ve gone through periods of warming before,” Dale said of walruses….

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