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Sierra Daily

Feb 09, 2011

Pacific Walrus Swimming in Limbo

Walrus small On Tuesday, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the Pacific walrus deserves protection from the effects of climate change, but that other worse-off species will get the agency’s attention for now. In a bit of Noah’s-ark triage, the walrus will be added to the agency’s “warranted but precluded” list, the equivalent of a consolation prize in the endangered-species regime.  According to the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned to have the walrus listed as threatened or endangered, some species have been on this close-but-no-cigar list for more than 20 years.

Like the polar bear, which was listed as a threatened species in 2008, the Pacific walrus depends on summer sea ice, which could disappear by 2030. But the walrus’ “greater population numbers and ability to adapt to land-based haulouts make its immediate situation less dire than those facing other species such as the polar bear," according to Geoff Haskett, the service's Alaska region director.

--Reed McManus

Photo Credit: Joel Garlich-Miller/USFWS Alaska

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