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. It had said that the designation was too extensive and not specific.
 
A spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned to designate polar bears as a threatened species, called it a victory for the marine mammal.
 
"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 acreage along Alaska's northern coast. But 95 percent 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, only 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 (42)
  • collinf-2-bar
    3/07/2016 - 11:12 p.m.

    Humans are threatening the polar bears' habitat. This is because humans cause global warming. The warming causes sea ice to melt, which polar bears need for "hunting, breeding and migrating."

    I found this article interesting because I like polar bears.

  • nickr32400-
    3/08/2016 - 12:41 p.m.

    The people that are threating the bears are the federal government.

  • billiem-1-bar
    3/08/2016 - 07:28 p.m.

    Global warming is threatening the polar bears' habitat. The melting ice limits the bears ability to hunt, migrate, and reproduce. There are also other things that threaten the bears' habitat. Oil companies are using the land that is home to the Polar Bears. If they destruct the land, the bears will no longer be able to use it. The government has to protect the bears from having their habitat invaded. I found this article interesting, because it is interesting how the government has to protect the bears and act in their best interest. Also how certain entities are trying to limit their habitat based on economical profits.

  • haithema-har
    3/09/2016 - 07:38 a.m.

    The real threat to the polar bears is humans because we are the ones who release CO2 in the air causing global warming melting their habitat.

  • charliet-orv
    3/09/2016 - 02:42 p.m.

    All of us. We cause global warming which melts where they live. Also some of us hunt them.

  • ellans-1-bar
    3/09/2016 - 05:02 p.m.

    Goble warming is threatening the polar bears' habitat. This article states, "The move made the polar bear the first species to be designated as threatened under the act because of global warming." It affects the ice caps that help them hunt, bread, and migrate. I think this article is interesting because it shows that people can affect wildlife non directly.

  • kieranw-3-bar
    3/09/2016 - 07:39 p.m.

    The Alaska Oil and Gas Association is threatening the polar bear's habitat because they don't believe polar bears are going extinct. Due to their disbelief they sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is the service to protect polar bears and their habitat. The Alaska Oil and Gas Association is complaining because of the fact the polar bears and their habitats take up 95% of the Beaufort Chukchi seas. I believe that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is making the right call to protect these great ocean mammals because truth is, they are becoming extinct due to oil and gas companies and global warming.

  • avab-4-bar
    3/10/2016 - 09:06 p.m.

    Humans are the main threat to Polar Bears because of global warming.

    I didn't find this article interesting nor did I find this article surprising.

  • samuelh-3-bar
    3/10/2016 - 09:28 p.m.

    The oil companies are the ones who are threatening the polar bears,because of the green house gas effect on the natural environment, which is speeding up the process of global warning, melting the sea ice that polar bears use for a majority of their needs.

  • oscarb-1-bar
    3/11/2016 - 01:10 a.m.

    Humans are threatening the polar bears. "Polar bears need ice for hunting, breeding and migrating," humans are causing global warming by using dangerous chemicals and in turn melting the ice caps. Humans are also inclosing the areas the bears live so they have no home. This reserve is very important to keep the polar bear healthy.

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