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The Old and the New, Wildlife-Wise

Grist, the most valuable daily green news and comment ezine, published a very interesting piece May 4, talking about "old" environmentalism and "new" environmentalism as exemplified by campaigns to protect wolves (that's the old part) and polar bears (new).

Both efforts have news hooks just now, and one, at least, does not display the Obama administration, particularly Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a good light.

The Grist piece characterizes the wolf campaign (Earthjustice is its lawyer) as old because it's geographically limited to the northern Rockies and seeks to protect a species and its habitat. Sec. Salazar recently continued a Bush administration effort to strip wolves in Montana and Idaho of their Endangered Species Act protection. Both states are likely to launch wolf hunts in the fall—unless new litigation can stop them.

Polar bears are "new" because a suit by the Center for Biological Diversity succeeded in forcing the Fish and Wildlife Service (part of Sec. Salazar's fiefdom) to grant ESA protection to the animals.

Under Bush, the service said it would protect the bears, but using the bears' plight to try to slow and reverse climate change (melting ice threatens to wipe out the species) is off limits. Mr. Salazar will announce whether he will stick with Bush on this one as well, and soon.

I, for one, think the distinction a bit contrived. The story fails, for example, to note that grizzly bears in the northern Rockies are in trouble partly because a main food source, white bark pine seeds, are getting ever scarcer—because of global warming. I don't know whether griz defenders have played the climate card in their behalf yet, but if the polar bear ruling comes out right, maybe they will. Interesting to contemplate, anyway.

One more thing. I love Grist and recommend it highly to anyone, but the new site design is not an improvement. The teasers are so small I can barely read them. Keep trying, friends.