Polar bear habitat protected
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."

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween78/polar-bear-habitat-protected/

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


COMMENTS (43)
  • ethany-fel
    4/01/2016 - 02:36 p.m.

    Global warming is threating the polar bears' habitat.

  • brooklynf-fel
    4/01/2016 - 02:37 p.m.

    The ice is threatening the polar bears habitat by melting. polar bears use the ice for hunting, migration, and many other reasons.

  • ethanw-fel
    4/01/2016 - 02:37 p.m.

    The melting ice is threating the polars bears habitat.

  • johnj-fel
    4/01/2016 - 02:38 p.m.

    Humans are threatening the polar bears' habitat because humans cause global warming which makes the polar ice caps melt meaning their habitat shrinks.

  • hollyk-fel
    4/01/2016 - 02:38 p.m.

    Global warming is threatening the polar bears 'habitat because they are having to migrate due to the hot weather that's due to global warming.

  • elizabetht-fel
    4/01/2016 - 02:38 p.m.

    Humans are threatening polar bear habitats because of global warming which is melting their icy habitats.

  • garretta-fel
    4/01/2016 - 02:38 p.m.

    Humans are threatening the polar bears habitat.

  • coled-fel
    4/01/2016 - 02:38 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."

  • donovanl-fel
    4/01/2016 - 02:38 p.m.

    Humans are threatening polar bears' habitat because we started global warming.

  • lances-fel
    4/01/2016 - 02:38 p.m.

    Who is threatening the polar bears is the melting ice.

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