The U.S. Interior Department has decided to classify polar bears as a threatened species, warning that the loss of Arctic sea ice is threatening their habitat.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced the decision Wednesday. But Kempthorne stressed that simply describing the bears as endangered will not stop climate change or stop sea ice from melting. He said a real solution for global warming requires international cooperation.
Kempthorne also said he will make sure the Endangered Species Act is not "abused" to shape U.S. policies on global warming.
The announced classification came a day before a court-imposed deadline for the Bush administration to decide whether polar bears should be placed on the endangered species list.
A judge last month ordered the administration to decide by May 15 whether polar bears should be placed on the list. The ruling was made after three conservation groups, including Greenpeace, claimed the U.S. government delayed a decision on the polar bear issue to avoid addressing global warming.
Kempthorne said he made the decision at the recommendation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.