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Even so, the 2008 polar bear ruling already has spawned its share of lawsuits. The state of Alaska and the Pacific Legal Institute are suing to take the polar bear off the threatened list. Meanwhile, environmental groups are challenging the 4(d) rule in court and attempting to upgrade the bear’s listing from “threatened” to “endangered.”

Also called into question were Mr. Salazar’s “green” credentials. The former senator from Colorado who comes from a family of ranchers is considered a moderate on environmental issues and was an unpopular choice among liberals to be interior secretary.

“For Salazar to adopt Bush’s polar bear extinction plan is confirming the worst fears of his tenure as secretary of the interior,” Mr. Greenwald said. “Secretary Salazar would apparently prefer to please [Alaska Gov.] Sarah Palin than to protect polar bears.”

Interior officials said they would continue to work to protect the polar bear through conservation and adaptation strategies. They also noted that President Obama has included an additional $7.4 million in his proposed budget for polar bear conservation.

“Just because we can’t do anything about climate change doesn’t mean we can’t do anything,” said Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland.