In a historic win for polar bears -- and in response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies -- the federal government just protected more than 187,000 square miles (about 120 million acres) of "critical habitat" for the polar bear on Alaska's north coast. The critical habitat designation -- by far the biggest in Endangered Species Act history -- comes at a critical time for this iconic Arctic animal: Due to our litigation, the Interior Department is now under court order to reconsider its decision to declare the polar bear "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act rather than granting it the more protective status of "endangered." Interior is also considering whether to allow oil companies to drill for oil in the polar bear's newly designated critical habitat in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas of Alaska. The polar bear earned federal protection in May 2008 due to our petition and lawsuit.
Global warming is fast melting the sea ice polar bears depend on to hunt, mate and raise cubs. If current greenhouse gas trends continue, scientists predict two-thirds of the world's polar bears -- including all Alaska bears -- will likely be gone in 40 years or even much sooner. "The critical habitat designation clearly identifies the areas that need to be protected if the polar bear is to survive in a rapidly melting Arctic," said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel with the Center. "However, unless the Interior Department starts to take seriously its mandate to actually protect the polar bear's critical habitat, we will be writing the species' obituary rather than its recovery plan."
Act Now to Fully Protect Polar Bears
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