Federal Agency Helps Polar Bears on the Brink of Extinction

Plans from federal environmental agencies to dedicate an enormous spread of Arctic land to the preservation of the native and critically-endangered polar bears have come under fire from the state of Alaska, as well as industries and communities along the state’s coast.

The Polar Plan

The US Fish and Wildlife Service planned to preserve an area of land larger than the state of California, in an effort to help stop dwindling population of polar bears. Designating 187,000 square miles of land to their preservation, about 95 percent of the area that the habitat encompasses is ocean, with the remaining 5 percent being Alaskan land. This remaining five percent is where the USFW expects female polar bear dens to exist, based on data collected by experts. This area will protect the polar bears under federal law, which are at risk of becoming extinct.

The Case

While the USFW claims the area they chose to preserve to be a decision based off of the best data available, and from the best sources possible, native Alaskan businesses such as petroleum trade associations argue that the information gathered isn’t nearly specific or clear enough to make such a huge judgement call. While the USFW admits that the federal plan lacks specific details—such as where exactly polar bear habitats are located within their preserve—they do not regret their decision, claiming that the overall goal of protecting polar bear populations beats out the interests of industries along the Alaskan border.

The Center for Biological Diversity has claimed that the laws in place favor the preservation of a critically-endangered habitat over any uncertainty in the data gathered.
The petroleum industries and local governments along Alaska’s northern coast will undoubtedly become frustrated by the increase in red-tape, as they will now have to comply with zoning laws in order to appease the USFW’s plan. However, the laws in place do not require industry practices to stay completely out of the polar bear habitat—they will only need to first prove to the USFW that their practices won’t interfere with the species’ survival.

Polar Bear Extinction

Experts from the Center for Biological Diversity predict that if we don’t take drastic measures to save polar bears here and now, there is a large chance that the entire species could go extinct within a small number of years. Climate change, coupled with increased human industry and pollution has caused polar bear populations to steadily decline for decades. In 2008, the Endangered Species Act included polar bears as a critically-endangered species, but it has done little to protect them from the melting ice caps so far.


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