Marine Mammals Management
Alaska Region


Image of a mother polar bear and two cubs.  Photo Credit:  Susi Miller/ USFWS

Endangered Species Act



Final Polar Bear Special Rule and Environmental Assessment

Final Rule Listing the Polar Bear as a Threatened Species Under the Endangered Species Act (May 15, 2008)

On May 15, 2008, the Service published a Final Rule in the Federal Register listing the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This listing is based on the best available science, which shows that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. Any significant changes in the abundance, distribution, or existence of sea ice will have effects on the number and behavior of these animals and their prey. This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species.

Information in the status assessment was used to form the 12-month finding, which was that listing the polar bear was warranted.

Critical Habitat

On January 10, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska issued an order vacating and remanding to the Service our December 7, 2010, Final Rule designating critical habitat for the polar bear. Therefore, at this time, there is no critical habitat designated for the polar bear.


Conservation Management Plan

A diverse team of experts, the Polar Bear Recovery Team, has been convened to develop a conservation management plan for polar bear.
The plan will include:

  • a description of site-specific management actions that may be necessary to achieve the plan’s goal for the conservation and survival of the species;
  • objectives, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination that the species may be removed from the ESA;
  • estimates of the time required and the cost to carry out those measures needed to achieve the plan’s goal and to achieve intermediate steps toward that goal.

There will be opportunity for the public to comment on the draft recovery plan. An announcement will be made when the draft plan is available for public comment.

Last updated: May 14, 2014