The U.S. Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service plans to offer offshore oil and gas drilling rights to 29.7 million acres of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. The area is home to one of two U.S. polar bear populations; interestingly enough, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — also a part of the Interior Department — is within days of deciding whether to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. “The polar bear is in need of intensive care, but with this lease sale the Bush administration is proposing to burn down the hospital,” says clever analogizer Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity. Environmentalists and some congressfolk had asked the MMS to delay the lease sale plan for at least three years; its failure to do so, says Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), is “the height of irresponsibility and short-sightedness.”