U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers fate of two beloved critters

The proposal to list polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act inspired more than 500,000 emails and oodles of snail mail before yesterday’s public-input deadline. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will read what could be a record number of comments; activists confirm that they pulled out all the stops. “The plight of these animals is critical, and so is the sense that the changes affecting them are eventually going to affect us,” says Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Meanwhile, the Florida manatee may be downgraded from endangered to threatened status, according to an internal FWS memo — despite the fact that 416 of about 3,200 died in 2006, the most in 30 years of stats. “We’ve entered the witching hour of the Bush administration, where there are going to be frantic lame-duck attempts to do under the table what they cannot pass through Congress,” says Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Two words: spoo-ky.