Polar bear habitat protected A polar bear dries off after taking a swim in the Chukchi Sea in Alaska. (Brian Battaile/U.S. Geological Survey via AP, File/AP Photo/Dan Joling, File)
Polar bear habitat protected
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service followed the law when it designated more than 187,000 square miles as critical habitat for threatened polar bears in Alaska marine waters and its northern coast, an appeals court has ruled.  The area is larger than California.
 
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a 2013 lower court decision. The lower court had said that the designation was too extensive. It wasn't specific enough.
 
It was a victory for the marine mammal, said a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity. The center had petitioned to designate polar bears as a threatened species. "The polar bear gets the full protection of critical habitat to which it's entitled, it deserves and it truly needs," Brendan Cummings said.
 
The federal government in 2008 declared polar bears threatened. That was under the Endangered Species Act. The government cited melting sea ice. Polar bears need ice for hunting, breeding and migrating.
 
The move made the polar bear the first species to be designated as threatened under the act because of global warming.
 
A designation of critical habitat is required as part of a recovery plan. The Fish and Wildlife Service set aside land along Alaska's northern coast. But 95 percent of it is in the ocean waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
 
The Alaska Oil and Gas Association, the state of Alaska, a coalition of Alaska Native groups and other oil and gas interests sued. They called the designation an overreach.
 
Former Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said the critical habitat designation included areas that account for almost half of Alaska's oil production. Parnell said petroleum exploration and production would be delayed or restricted.
 
U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service's designation of sea ice as critical habitat was valid. However, he ruled the agency had not shown that areas on land and barrier islands had features making them appropriate for polar bear dens. He rejected the entire plan.
 
Appeals court judges said the lower court decision appeared to consider the bears' denning habitat. But it did not consider the need by bears to have undisturbed access to and from sea ice.
 
The appeals court judges agreed that the agency did not have to prove that polar bears actually used certain designated areas. They only had to show that those areas were critical to the conservation of the species. They said the agency drew rational conclusions from the best scientific evidence available.
 
Cummings said specificity in designating habitat is impossible. That is because of the dynamic nature of the Arctic. Polar bears move by walking or merely resting on shifting sea ice. Polar bears, he said, are not like salmon that return to the same streams every year to spawn.
 
"You can't say the bear will take this specific path to its denning area. And therefore, let's only protect that narrow corridor," he said. "You need to protect on the scale of the ecosystem, which is what Fish and Wildlife did."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Who is threatening the polar bears' habitat?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (65)
  • vincentl-ver
    3/08/2016 - 12:48 p.m.

    I THINK THAT IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO CONSERVE WILDLIFE HABITATS

  • wilsoash3-dil
    3/08/2016 - 03:15 p.m.

    Globalwarming and people are is what is destroying their habitat cars, machines,technology,tv,engines,furnaces and the biggest factories

  • derekzangerle-bak
    3/08/2016 - 04:40 p.m.

    I can't believe the polar bears will be saved. That's great news.

  • zachs-kut
    3/08/2016 - 05:39 p.m.

    It is so sad because our polar ice caps are melting, and that causes the polar bears to swim from really far only to get a small piece of ice. The green house gasses keep the thermal energy inside, and that causes to heat our earth and melt the ice caps.

  • rainar-kut
    3/08/2016 - 08:11 p.m.

    this is really sad for polar bears, they could go extinct because there could soon, because of global warming, not be enough ice for breeding, migrating, etc. I say scientists should find a way to help prevent global warming to stop the ice from melting, because polar bears are such an amazing animal and it would be so devastating if we lost them.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    3/08/2016 - 08:57 p.m.

    The polar bear habitats needed to be protected so that the polar bears would be protected until the polar bear species would soon go up to the point where the polar bear species would be getting off the endangered list. The people might have cared both about the polar bears and the sea ice because since the global warming is affecting everything, the ocean would rise and the polar bears would lose more of their habitats. The polar bear species would needed to be protected ever since when the global warming first started, the polar bears are the first species to become affected. People might have wanted to save the polar bears from being extincted which people would need to help the polar bears from being extincted from earth.
    Critical Thinking Question: Who is threatening the polar bears' habitat?
    Answer: The global warming is threatening the polar bears' habitat which people would need to help first before helping other species that are endangered.

  • victoriat-raf
    3/09/2016 - 09:28 a.m.

    who is threating the polar bears habitat is the fish and wildlife service

  • klux-gom
    3/09/2016 - 02:44 p.m.

    In the article "Polar Bear habits Protected",it says "you need to protect on the scale of the ecosystem,which is what fish and wildlife do".That means you need to protect wildlife and fish because its part of our ecosystem.Another piece of evedence is ,"The move made the polar bear the first speices to be designated as threatened under the act because of global warming".That means that polar bears are being threatened by one of the problems which is global warming.My lasty peice of evedence was,"However he ruled the agency had not shown that areas on land and barrier island had features making them appropriate for polar bear dens he rejected the entire plan".That means that humans do not cupperat which would cause a bigger threat to polar bears.

    Arturo,Katherine,Yahir

  • destinyg-san
    3/09/2016 - 03:12 p.m.

    The U.S is threatening the polar bear. I know that cause in the article it said " The U.S is threatening the polar bears". Also the polar bears are not going to have food if we keep on threatening the polar bears.

  • anoushkad-the
    3/09/2016 - 04:37 p.m.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service save millions of polar bears.

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