Three environmental groups sued the US government today for dawdling in deciding whether polar bears will be considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The original decision was due Jan. 9, and yesterday was the most recent deadline, Reuters reports. "It's up to a federal court to throw this incredible animal a lifeline," said a spokesman for one of the plaintiffs.
Environmental groups see a direct connection between the delay and the Interior Department's sale of oil and gas leases for territory off the Alaskan coast, which is prime polar bear habitat, reports the Guardian. A recent US Geological Survey report said two-thirds of the world's polar bears could be gone by 2050 as sea ice continues to melt.