Three months after the deadline for declaring whether polar bears are a threatened species, the Interior Department hasn't issued a ruling, and Barbara Boxer wants to know why. The influential senator said yesterday she wants Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to appear before the environment committee and “answer questions about the administration’s continued foot-dragging,” the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports.
With scientists predicting that Alaska's polar bears could be extinct by 2050, Boxer is asking why Interior approved oil lease sales off Alaska's northwest coast before a decision was made about the bears' status under the Endangered Species Act. The department’s inspector general has begun a probe into the delays, and Greenpeace and other environmental groups have filed lawsuits in hopes of forcing a decision. (Read more polar bear stories.)