Washington, D.C. A federal judge in Oakland, Calif., has ordered the Interior Department to decide by May 15 if the polar bear should be protected as an endangered species because of melting sea ice due to global warming.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken decided, in a ruling released Tuesday that government failed to meet the deadline of Jan. 9, a legal requirement under the Endangered Species Act. She dismissed the Bush administration's plea to give it until June 30, saying officials offered "no specific facts that would justify the existing delay, much less further delay."
To give the administration more time, the judge wrote, "would violate the mandated listing deadlines under the (Endangered Species Act) and congressional intent that time is of the essence in listing threatened species."
Wilken's decision is a victory for three conservation groups that petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the Interior Department, to protect the polar bear as a species threatened with extinction because of receding sea ice.