Biden administration to review protections for polar bears

With climate change expected to continue melting the sea ice polar bears use for hunting seals and bearing cubs, a new review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider whether its status as a threatened animal under federal law is sufficient.

The federal agency listed polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2008.

The agency on Monday announced it will accept scientific and commercial information for 60 days in a new review of the animals’ status.

The reviews are conducted every five years for animals listed under the act. The review will determine if the polar bear should receive an endangered status with stronger protections, be delisted, or if its threatened status should continue, the agency said in a statement.

The assessment could lead to a recommendation for a new status, but with an opportunity for public comment before any final decision is made, said Andrea Medeiros, a spokeswoman with Fish and Wildlife.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association is reviewing the notice from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and will determine whether to provide comments, said Kara Moriarty, president of the group. The group represents oil companies with operations on the North Slope where polar bears live.

The review is critical, said Nicole Whittington-Evans, with Defenders of Wildlife’s in Alaska. “Climate change is already jeopardizing the future of the polar bear,” she said in a statement.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.