The Polar Bear was one of the most challenging species ever assessed by COSEWIC" said Dr. Jeff Hutchings, Chair. Extensive inventory, research, a wealth of Aboriginal traditional and community knowledge and the emerging threats posed by climate change and northern development were considered. In some areas, the bear appears to be increasing; in others it is declining. The reduction of sea ice, a consequence of increasing temperatures, is a threat to the species, especially in the southern part of its range. Future stresses on the population mean that harvest will have to be managed particularly carefully in coming years.
So I zipped over to the COSEWIC website and read up and tried to decide what my opinion was.
And my opinion, until someone smarter tells me different, is that this is a not bad Canadian compromise. While less than 100% protection, if you read the relevant parts of the legislation you will see that the new status requires the Environment Minister to produce a management plan and, more importantly in my view, he
...may adopt a multi-species or an ecosystem approach when preparing the management plan if he or she considers it appropriate to do so.
As the Polar Bear is protected, so too are the species needed to sustain it; it may become significantly more difficult to drill, log, hunt, or etc. within the polar bear's established habitat.
Now, there are a number of possible flies in the ointment.
1) The government does not have to accept the committee's recommendation. John Baird has three months to decide, and so far he has made happy sounding mumbling noises.
1) If the government accepts the recommendation, the Environment Minister has a whole 5 years to produce his plan. You would think that John Baird et al would want to move swiftly on an issue like this, to establish a few environmental creds, but with this government who knows?
2) As much as I like to think I am aboriginal friendly, the only innocent party in this debate is the Polar Bear. While on the one hand Inuit spokespeople have bitched about global warming, sometimes citing the fact that their people are seeing more polar bears as the poor starving dears move inland in search of food, on the other hand they have referenced the fact that more people are seeing polar bears etc. in support of the contention that the polar bear population is in great shape and the status quo is fine re hunting levels. Their whole traditional knowledge schtick--"Breeding levels are healthy. We can sense it on the wind."--is growing a bit stale when it comes to this particular issue.
But while we are on the subject of endangered species, I would be amiss if I didn't point out the obvious fact that people gravitate towards protecting animals considered "cute" or "majestic"--usually large mammels. However, there are all sorts of endangered snakes, bugs and birds also dealt with in COSEWIC's latest release, and nobody is paying any attention to them.
So, I personally would like to put in a word for The Eastern Fox Snake
Ranging from 3 to 6 feet in length, The Eastern Fox Snake is very quiet, and won't eat you, like a polar bear. It probably won't fetch to your morning newspaper, either, but that is no reason to deny it protection.
Finally, in all matters environmental, remember my motto: Animals are Innocent, and People are Assholes.