Public hearings on polar-bear fate get Alaskans all riled up

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is holding public hearings on plans to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act, and it’s getting an earful. A hearing in Anchorage on Friday brought out critics of all stripes, from the deputy director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association to a leading biologist with the state’s Department of Fish and Game. While we’re not saying these folks are afraid of regulations cramping their resource-extraction style, the rainbow of panicky points they conjured sorta suggests it. Concerns centered around the likely effects of climate change — which proponents of listing say is the primary cause of the bears’ peril — and the chance that U.S. protection would actually lead to more bear hunting in Canada. Then there was the hope that the seal-munchers could become land-based hunters, an idea one polar-bear researcher called “absolutely fanciful.” Hearings will be held this week in Washington, D.C., and Barrow, Alaska; a listing decision is due in January.