Double Trouble for Polar Bears
When it comes to polar bears, the Department of Interior can't seem to decide whether it wants to help or hurt the species. One day the agency takes dramatic steps to protect polar bears by proposing 200,000 square miles of critical habitat. The next, DOI is recklessly handing out oil and gas leases in prime polar bear habitat.
A new report by the National Wildlife Federation and Northern Alaska Environmental Center details how these threats from oil and gas development, combined with near-record Arctic sea-ice loss, spell Double Trouble for Polar Bears.
The first of two maps in the report shows the overlap of approved energy leases and proposed polar bear critical habitat. Imagine what would happen to polar bears if a major oil spill were to occur in this area.
The second map shows where sea ice in prime polar bear habitat areas has declined significantly over the past 30 years, especially during October and November, when polar bears return to these areas where seals are most common. This global warming spurred melting is happening faster than previously projected.
If we are to give polar bears a fighting chance, we need strict oversight as required by the Endangered Species Act of oil and gas development and other proposed disturbances in polar bear critical habitat. NWF is also advocating for DOI to expand the area proposed for polar bear critical habitat to include the entire coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Beaufort Sea from Alaska’s Northern coast out to 200 miles.
NWF's Dr. Doug Inkley offered up this perspective: “The plight of the polar bear highlights the plight of our planet,”
said Inkley. “The news coming out of the Arctic increases the urgency
for world leaders gathered in Copenhagen to agree on a plan to reduce
the pollution that threatens wildlife and our own future.”