Christmas and a longer healthier chance at life in the New Year. These three environmental groups just issued a joint news release praising the Interior Department’s decision to extend a life line of protection against ill-considered oil and gas development in America’s most important polar bear habitat.
The Interior Department set aside 187,157 square miles of Alaskan seas and lands as critical to the survival of the polar bear on 11/24/2010. More than 95 percent of it is offshore, including some areas that may have large undersea oil deposits. A large part of this territory is sea ice so the bears can hunt and den during the winter. Coastal areas of northern Alaska are included so that as the sea ice retreats due to climate change, more bears are establishing dens on land near the sea’s edge.
Among the denning areas are coastal regions that are part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a small strip of land that was the fought over in Congress for nearly twenty years.
Any oil or gas development in an area that has been declared off limits in this critical habitat for an endangered or threatened species. Any request for permits now must undergo extensive scrutiny by federal biologists and is often eventually ruled out.
Two populations of polar bears designated as threatened two years ago and thus protected under the Endangered Species Act roam widely in the areas designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the Interior Department.
A population of about 1,586 animals roam the ice and shores of the Beaufort Sea in the United States and Canada. That group seems to be birthing fewer cubs and fewer young bears survive.
Kassie Siegel, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity called for the administration to impose a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in bear habitat areas. “An oil spill there would be a catastrophe,” she said. “That seems like an understatement.”Please support these groups that fought so hard to help the polar bears survive.
Merry Holidays Polar Bears may your numbers begin to grow!
Excerpts courtesy of http://bit.ly/gC3u0T
Excerpts courtesy of http://on.msnbc.com/dUmtvi
Image courtesy of Nature’s Crusaders library