Bruce Woods (907) 786-3695
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that it will give the public additional time to review and comment on nine new research papers analyzing polar bear population status and threats by extending its currently open public comment period until October 22, 2007. This research, recently completed by the U.S. Geological Survey, will be used by the Service in conjunction with other scientific information gathered over the past year in reaching a final decision on whether to protect the polar bear as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act. The USGS studies can be found at: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/special/polar_bears/.
The reopened comment period was scheduled to close on October 5, but will now remain open until October 22. The Service has limited this additional comment period because of statutory deadlines which require the agency to make a final listing determination within one year of the January 9, 2007 publication of the proposed rule to protect the polar bear as a threatened species.
The Service has made every effort possible to gather the latest and best scientific and technical data. During the original 90-day public comment period, which closed in April 2007, the Service held public hearings in Anchorage, Alaska; Barrow, Alaska; and Washington D.C. In June, the Service hosted a meeting to exchange scientific information with other countries in the polar bear?s range.
As a result of these information gathering efforts, the Service received approximately 600,000 responses. The responses contain volumes of information concerning habitat, distribution, population densities and trends and effects of sea-ice change on polar bears.
Comments provided during the original 90-day public comment period should not be resubmitted, and any new comments should be limited to the above-mentioned USGS reports. The Service is particularly interested in information regarding the new data and its relevance to the final determination on its proposal to list the polar bear as a threatened species.
Comments may be submitted by e-mail to: Polar_Bear_Finding@fws.gov. Information on other methods for submitting comments can be found on the Federal eRulemaking Portal at: http:www.regulations.gov. You may mail or hand-deliver written comments and information to the Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marine Mammals Management Office, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99503.
Further information about polar bear management in Alaska, and on the proposed Endangered Species Act listing of polar bears worldwide, can be found at: http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/polarbear/issues.htm.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices, 64 Fishery Resource Offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov