Environmentalists to Answer Letterman-esque Question at S.F. Hearing: Can Man in Bear Suit Hand Petition to Secretary of Interior?

Categories: Environment
Will bears of color be heard from as well?
In this city, you've got to watch yourself when you crack wise about ferocious wild predators gallivanting through the city; after Tatiana the Tiger hopped the fence at the San Francisco Zoo, all bets are off. So when the Center for Biological Diversity announced that a polar bear would be handing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar an environmental petition at a Mission Bay hearing tomorrow morning, one could be forgiven for imagining the worst (and laughing, inappropriately -- though a rampaging bear might indeed be the only thing that could limit San Francisco public commentators to the allotted three minutes).

So, no, an actual member of the family Ursidae will not be handing Salazar a sheaf of papers. It'll be Brian Nowicki in the astoundingly high-quality bear suit pictured here. And now that he's got our attention, the California Climate Policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity would like to explain what this is all about.

Nowicki -- who will don the "Frostpaw" costume in addition to offering testimony in civilian garb at the San Francisco hearing  -- is pushing Salazar to drop a pair of rollbacks to the Endangered Species Act authored by the Bush administration:    In a nutshell, Nowicki is hoping Salazar will reinstate more environmentally comprehensive provisions regarding energy development on the outer continental shelf -- the shallow portions of the ocean between several and a dozen or more miles offshore -- and eliminate rules that forbid factoring in global warming and greehouse gas production as threats to an endangered species (such as, say, polar bears). The Bush policies also pared back the need to consult with environmental agencies -- such as the Department of Fish and Wildlife -- before moving ahead with controversial policies.

President Obama has asked Salazar to consider revoking the rollbacks, and, earlier this month, 44 members of the House of Representatives (including a healthy Bay Area contingent) urged the same in stronger language.

This prompts the question: If Salazar is likely sympathetic to environmentalists' pleas, why the theatrics? Nowicki notes that he hopes the costume-heavy demonstration won't be taken as -- ahem -- polarizing.

"The turnout and everything that's happening tomorrow is meant ot show Secretary Salazar and the folks of California how important this issue is to our coastline," he says. "I don't see any of it as being antagonistic and I don't think the secretary has seen it this way."

And as far as sympathizing with the plight of the global warming-threatened polar bear, Nowicki is more empathetic than ever.He notes that, while the "Frostpaw" costume is stunningly beautiful and well-made -- it's stiflingly hot.

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