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Alaska Judge Rules Against Polar Bears

/ Post by Erica Wills of Polar Bears International

Just a couple weeks ago, Alaskan judge Ralph Beistline threw out a plan that would have designated upwards of 187,000 square miles as protected habitat space for polar bears. He cited “a disconnect between the twin goals of protecting a cherished resource and allowing for growth and much needed economic development” as his reason for dismissing the proposal. Judge Beistline added that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is required to show that the “critical habitat include physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species,” and the USFWS failed to do so for two of the land units.

I agree wholeheartedly that both sides of this issue must be considered, but when the loudest voices arguing against this plan were oil and gas companies, my patience becomes tried. I especially took issue with comments made by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who said that bear populations are “abundant and healthy,” and that the only “real impact of the designation would have been to make life more difficult for the residents of North Slope communities, and make any kind of economic development more difficult or even impossible.”

This is by far the most difficult part of being an advocate for polar bears: accepting the fact that there will always be someone out there who will never agree that climate change is real and action needs to be taken. It’s hard to see Senator Murkowski perpetuating distorted information on bear populations and listing the need for economic development as her reasoning behind not supporting the plan. The “economic development” is merely more drilling for oil, when the real economic development is in green energy investment and production. The oil companies and the politicians they support, however, disagree. 

What can you do? Write to the USFWS to lend them your support of a habitat designation for polar bears and to urge them not to give up in that effort. Write your own Congressmen, Congresswomen, and Senators to speak for the creatures that cannot speak for themselves, and to urge them to support more environmentally-conscious efforts in Congress. And, as always, reach out to friends and family members, to provide them with information and inspire them to take action with you.

Climate change has become a political issue, which makes it that much more difficult to tackle, but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to tackle. For more information on the ruling, you can click here to read the full AP article by Becky Bohrer, and here to take action with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to help the polar bears. By working together, we can make climate change into a social issue that everyone understands and is inspired to take action against!