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Polar Bear Protection: "Canary in a Coal Mine" for NH

April 7, 2008

Littleton, NH - Environmentalists are saying it's time for the Bush Administration to protect the polar bear. Andrew Wexler, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, believes the polar bear represents a big white canary in an Arctic coal mine -- its fate could signal doom for other plants and animals, including New Hampshire's apple and maple sugar trees.

"The polar bear for us is a real test. Are we going to take global warming seriously? Are we going to do something about it? Because if we're not, it isn't just going to be polar bears that we have to worry about, but the entire web of life."

Wexler opposes the current administration's plans to sell oil and gas drilling leases in Alaska. He contends the sales are being pushed through before the bears are given protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, in order to make it easier to begin drilling. The oil from that area, however, wouldn't affect New Hampshire gas prices, according to Wexler.

"We can drill all we want in Alaska, and it won't bring the prices of oil and gas down by a single cent. The amount of oil in Alaska is a drop in the bucket compared to the world supply, and the market for oil is a world market."

Wexler says even without their habitat being sold for oil exploration, the bears are already threatened by global warming, including rapid melting of their icy domain.

John Robinson/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NH