Polar Bear Politics

Like the response to global warming, policies that affect the polar bears’ future are currently the subjects of hot debate. YOUR VOICE MAKES A DIFFERENCE. You can participate in these discussions and help determine the course of these policies. Let public officials and agencies know what you think. Numerous non-profit educational and conservation organizations can alert you to timely opportunities.

Endangered species status: After much delay, in May 2008 the U.S. Department of the Interior listed the polar bear for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Offshore oil drilling: In February 2008, before an Endangered Species ruling was issued, the U.S. government auctioned off drilling rights to nearly 30 million acres in the Chukchi Sea, an expanse used by polar bears for denning and summer habitation. Drilling could have a negative impact either directly, through an oil spill, or indirectly, through the construction of roads and other industrial infrastructure.

Development in critical coastal areas: The Alaskan Arctic coast contains the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. By law, critical wildlife habitat must be protected within these areas; however, some politicians and industries continue to press for opening sensitive areas to mining and drilling.

Polar bear in sunset glow on pack ice (autumn, coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge)
Photograph by Steven Kazlowski