Supreme Court leaves polar bear habitat intact

A polar bear mother and cubs.
(2007 file photo: USFWS)

A California-sized chunk of the Arctic will remain designated as critical polar bear habitat. That’s the effect of a U.S. Supreme Court order Monday declining to hear an appeal from the state of Alaska, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and an oil industry trade group.

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The area stretches from the Canadian border in the Northeast, along the coast down to Hooper Bay in the West. It includes barrier islands, but 96 percent of the critical habitat is offshore.

The polar bear was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 2008. Oil industry advocates say declaring such a large area as critical habitat adds uncertainty to development plans.

Graphic: Federal Register

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the habitat designation doesn’t require developers to obtain additional permits, though it may add a few pages to permit documents.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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