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Andrew Wetzler’s Blog

Being thankful for polar bears

Andrew Wetzler

Posted November 24, 2010 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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Today brought some much needed good news for Alaska’s polar bears.  In response to a lawsuit brought by NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Greenpeace, the Obama Administration finalized the designation of 187,000 square miles of “critical habitat” for the polar bear.

As I wrote when these protections were first proposed, protecting polar bear habitat, the offshore sea ice that bears rely on to find food and mates and the onshore areas where they rest and raise their young, is vital to conserving these magnificent creatures.  Most importantly, in this case, is the role that today’s designation may play in protecting polar bears from the ongoing threat of oil development and toxic contaminants, both increasing threats to the species as global warming takes its toll.

One of the more interesting bits of data released with today’s announcement was a map, reproduced below, that shows the observed changes in optimal polar bear habitat over the last twenty years.  Red areas show a decrease in habitat, blue areas an increase.  The profound shift in habitat availability around Alaska can easily be seen, making today’s designation all the more important.

image

The designation does have its limitations, however.  Among other things, it could have done more to protect offshore sea ice habitat, but overall it’s a good step forward for polar bear conservation here in the United States.

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Comments

PolarBearNov 24 2010 05:39 PM

I love Polar Bears and wish I could work with them and help them!!

Laura GarvineNov 24 2010 09:38 PM

Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU!!!! Not only for sharing this good news on the eve of America's day of Thanksgiving, but for all NRDC members who are out there on the front lines, every day, fighting for our non-human friends and the earth itself. Thank you for making a way for us to help and be a part of the solution even when we cannot physically be there with you. Most of all, thank God for creating such a magnificent and beautiful world full of so many amazing creatures and life forms for us to appreciate and learn from. I'm proud and thankful to be a part of NRDC!

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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