Canada Inuit rap U.S. greens for polar bear campaign

Mon Jan 14, 2008 12:41pm EST
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Leaders of Canada's Arctic Inuit people denounced U.S. environmentalists on Monday for pushing Washington to declare the polar bear a threatened species, saying the move was unnecessary and would hurt the local economy.

The United States last week delayed a decision on whether global warming threatened polar bears on the grounds that it needed more time to analyze the data. Three U.S. green groups said they would sue for quicker action.

The Inuit fear that if Washington does declare the bear a threatened species, it will deter U.S. hunters, who spend millions of dollars a year for the right to shoot the animals in the Canadian Arctic.

Environmentalists say global warming is shrinking the sea ice that polar bears use as a platform to hunt seals. The fate of the bears has received widespread media coverage.

Mary Simon, president of the Inuit Tapiriit of Canada group, said green organizations were using polar bears as an excuse to attack the administration of U.S. President George Bush over its position on climate change.

"As Inuit we fundamentally disagree with such tactics ... the polar bear is a very important subsistence, economic, cultural, conservation, management, and rights concern for Inuit in Canada," she said in a statement.

"It's a complex and multilevel concern. But it seems the media, environmental groups, and the public are looking at this in overly simplistic black-and-white terms as the demise of the polar bear from climate change and sports hunting."

Scientists estimate that the world's polar bear population is around 25,000. Two-thirds of the animals live in Canada, almost all of them in the Arctic territory of Nunavut.   Continued...

 
<p>Five-year-old polar bear Sedov plays at the Krasnoyarsk Zoo October 31, 2007. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin</p>