One Small Step Away from Extinction: Polar Bears to be Granted 'Critical Habitat' by Department of the Interior

polar bear ice photo

photo: Amanda Graham

Though polar bears were granted "threatened" status by the Federal government back in May, no specific habitat refuge was created for their protection. As part of legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council that will change. The Secretary of the Interior now has a deadline of March 31, 2010 to designate "critical habitat" for the polar bear, as well as to issue guidelines on non-lethal strategies to deal with bears which pose threats to humans.

Protecting Habitat Critically Important
The NRDC commented on the ruling:

The designation of critical habitat is one of the most powerful and important protections that the Endangered Species Act offers to animals and plants on the brink of extinction. Designation of critical habitat for the polar bear is an essential step towards saving this increasingly imperiled species.

Species Twice As Likely to Recover
The Center for Biological Diversity on the implications on the meaning of "critical habitat" under the Endangered Species Act:
...critical habitat is supposed to be designated at the same time a species is listed as threatened or endangered. Once designated, federal agencies are prohibited from taking any actions that may "adversely modify" critical habitat in a way that could interfere with the species' recovery. Species for which critical habitat has been designated have been found to be more than twice as likely to recover, and less than half as likely to decline, than those without.

Global Warming, Oil Drilling Biggest Threats
Kassie Siegal, from the Center for Biological diversity added that, "after global warming, oil development is the biggest threat to polar bears."

via :: Reuters and :: Center for Biological Diversity (press release)

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