Good News for Polar Bears During the Holidays

Posted: December 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

No, they haven’t been featured in yet another nostalgic Coca Cola commercial (although we love watching polar bears and penguins frolic and drink carbonated beverages together as much as the next person).

If we were just given our own designated "protection area," we'd celebrate with a relaxing swim too.

Rather, this news is of the more long-term, sustainable variety: the Obama administration has recently designated an extensive “polar bear protection area” off the northern coast of Alaska.

Approximately 187,000 square miles, this special zone is comprised mainly of sea ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas: the critical element of a polar bear’s habitat, that in recent decades has been extremely threatened by the melting polar ice caps.

While the bears are currently listed as “threatened” under the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Endangered Species Act, it is estimated that unless some changes are made to stop global climate change, 2/3 of the world’s polar bear population could be gone by 2030.

The Chukchi and Beaufort seas stretch from Siberia, across Alaska's northern coastline.

The new protection area is contained in a scarcely populated region of our 50th state that makes its living through oil and gas exploration. Opposition groups are arguing that the zone will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and revenues for the state, as well as “disproportionally impact Alaska Natives,” the primary residents of the area.

Various interest groups, the White House, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are currently at odds over the extent to which the new ruling will slow job growth and economic recovery. As of now, economic development is not completely banned in the region, just required to analyze the impact on polar bears  before it can be approved. But regardless of one’s political views, it is great news to see strides being made that will help ensure the survival of this incredible species.

And that’s something we’ll all crack open a Coke and toast to!

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