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By Garrett Hawkins
Spring couldn’t come soon enough for those weary from scraping ice, shoveling snow, clearing broken tree limbs and simply enduring frigid temperatures. Winter’s fury chilled many areas of the country, but it wasn’t enough to cool off the global warming debate in our nation’s capitol.

In recent months environmental alarmists and their allies in the United States Congress worked to advance their stalled agenda through the omnipotent Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, under the leadership of Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, held two hearings and spent countless hours debating the merits of listing the polar bear as ‘threatened’ under ESA. It is alleged that global warming (caused by humans, of course) is melting the arctic ice caps and may diminish the polar bear population in the future.

Saving species from extinction is the crux of the ESA, but there is more to the story in this particular case. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears today as compared to 5,000 to 10,000 in the 1950s and 1960s.

Environmentalists argue the polar bear population may dwindle if the ice caps thaw, taking away their habitat for hunting and mating. Listing a species simply because it may be affected some day would be a precedent-setting expansion of the ESA and would arguably open the door for other creatures and critters to be listed because of perceived global warming.

We have felt firsthand the impacts of the ESA, as it trumps common sense nearly every time when decisions are made on the management of the Missouri River by federal agencies. The recent man-made spring rise, which was curtailed after the water was released, and the construction of ‘rest stops’ or chutes along the river are a part of the federal government’s grand experiment to save the endangered pallid sturgeon and are examples of why the ESA should be reformed, not expanded.

Listing the polar bear under the protections of the ESA is also a backdoor way of shutting off access to oil and natural gas in the arctic. It is already difficult to open new areas for environmentally sensitive energy development; the proposed action would make it virtually impossible. At a time when Americans are paying record prices at the pump for fuel, more attention should be given to developing our resources here at home, both renewable and traditional.

We all have an interest in protecting imperiled species, but this latest attempt to misuse the ESA to further a flawed global warming agenda goes too far. A cold, harsh dose of reality is needed.


(Garrett Hawkins, of Jefferson City, Missouri, serves as director of national legislative programs for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.