The department's Fish and Wildlife Service is supposed to announce a decision by Wednesday whether polar bears should be listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A department spokesman said that deadline would probably pass with no decision.
Last week, the department's Minerals Management Service announced its plan to offer oil and gas exploration rights in February to 29.7 million acres in the remote
"The polar bear's existence is increasingly threatened by the impact of climate change-induced loss of sea ice," Margaret Williams of the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement. "The chances for the continued survival of this icon of the
Randall Luthi, director of the Minerals Management Service, called the decision "a good balance" that would allow exploration while still protecting "the resources important to the coastal residents." A spokeswoman questioned whether companies would even want to explore such distant waters. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a Republican, does not favor listing the big white bear as endangered.
…Palin said the Endangered Species Act is not the right tool to protect polar bears if they were endangered, which she disputed. "Polar bears are more numerous now than they were 40 years ago," she said. The future may be another question.
The U.S. Geological Survey has predicted polar bears could disappear from places where Arctic sea ice is melting most rapidly, along the northern coasts of
…"Oil lease sales in the Chukchi Sea not only threaten polar bears directly through oil spills, industrial noise and other disturbances that come with oil exploration, production and transportation, they also threaten the polar bear by producing more fossil fuels that will exacerbate global warming and melting of polar bears' sea ice habitat," Duchin said by e-mail.
Conservationists sued the Minerals Management Service last year for approving oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea, another part of the
A stay was granted in that case until final arguments were heard, which happened in December. A ruling is expected in the coming months.