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Proposed Habitat Will Offer No Protection for Endangered Polar Bears

Proposed Habitat Will Offer No Protection for Endangered Polar Bears

Earlier this week, it was reported that Shell Oil Company had been granted permission to start drilling exploratory offshore wells in the area of the Beaufort Sea. It was also revealed that renowned marine scientist and conservationist Rick Steiner had been dropped from a federal grant and evicted from his office at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks for being critical of what he considered to be irresponsible oil company proposals, projects and activities in Alaska.

Now, in an unexpected and somewhat contradictory move by the Interior Department, the US government has proposed the designation of “more than 200,000 square miles of land, sea and ice along the northern coast of Alaska as critical habitat for the shrinking polar bear population” (NY Times).

Environmentalists have repeatedly pointed to shrinking areas of sea ice as proof that climate change was contributing directly to the threat of extinction for an already dwindling polar bear population.

“In May 2008 the Interior Department declared, under the terms of the Endangered Species Act, that the polar bear was threatened with extinction. The Bush administration found that the bears’ habitat was shrinking because of melting ice, along with commercial activities like shipping, oil and gas operations, hunting and tourism” (NY Times).

Despite the fact that the government is now acknowledging that it is important to set aside land for polar bears, the habitat proposal is weak and won’t do anything to prevent industrial developers from disturbing the almost 3,500 bears that would live there.

Thomas L. Strickland, assistant interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks commented that “the bears’ habitat was not being set aside as a refuge and that oil and gas exploration and other activities could continue under the terms of the species act and other laws.”

This has many wildlife advocates wondering, “What’s the point?”

Although the polar bear has been listed on the Engangered Species list since last year, the Interior Department has still failed to set aside critical habitat for their protection, which is required by law. This proposal fails to impress those who have been criticizing the government for the lack of action, and it is being pegged as a half-hearted attempt to fulfill the law without truly protecting the polar bears.

“If polar bears are to survive in a rapidly melting Arctic, we need to protect their critical habitat, not turn it into a polluted industrial zone,” said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Interior Department is schizophrenic, declaring its intent to protect polar bear habitat in the Arctic, yet simultaneously sacrificing that habitat to feed our unsustainable addiction to oil.”

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Image Credit: psc.apl.washington.edu

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67 comments

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11:24AM PST on Dec 23, 2010

Outrageous

6:45AM PST on Feb 4, 2010

Of course, in my opinion this is only natural !!!

11:26PM PST on Jan 9, 2010

I'll believe what the politicians tell us when they freely admit that they don't care one bit about us and they only got into politics for the money.

1:23PM PDT on Oct 28, 2009

I fear and respect all bears, but honestly my biggest fear is losing these beautiful creatures forever!

5:04AM PDT on Oct 27, 2009

Bad as it is for the polar bears, at least they get to stay free. The DOI / BLM are eridicating our wild horse and burro herds off of our federal lands entirely and trying to privatize them into "zoo-like" settings...all in the name of development.

6:19PM PDT on Oct 26, 2009

Lots of excuses but seriously there are no sincerity in regards to helping the Polar Bears and other helpless habitats.

1:17PM PDT on Oct 26, 2009

The size of the human ego never ceases to amaze me. We think we are the most important beings on the planet and that it is our right to continue to reproduce ourselves to the point that every other creature must become extinct. Amazing.

1:05PM PDT on Oct 26, 2009

Honestly, I agree with Lisa D. and feel very ashamed of what we have done to all the wonderful animals and our environment! Our elected officials need to do what we put them there for! We NEED TO SAVE THE ANIMALS AND OUR PLANET!

11:45AM PDT on Oct 26, 2009

Salazar is a danger to nature. He is responsible for the endangerment of wolves and now he is targeting polar bears. He should be removed from his position and delegated to carrying out the White House trash.

11:23AM PDT on Oct 26, 2009

I'm amazed that no one in the goverment gives a crap about all these poor helpless[because of us humans] animals will be no more! These animals have more rights to be here that we do!They were around for thousands of years before we showed up and within 100 yearsa we've destroyed millions of species with our pollution and destruction I'm disgusted by our actions and ashamed of our values!

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