The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that a petition to list the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act presents substantial scientific and commercial information indicating that listing the polar bear may be warranted. As a result, the agency is initiating a status review of the polar bear to determine if the species should be proposed for listing and opening a 60-day public comment period, to follow publication in the Federal Register on Thursday, February 9th, in order to give all interested parties an opportunity to provide information on the status of the polar bear throughout its range.
The Service is soliciting scientific and commercial information regarding this species, including;
· Information on population distribution, density and trends, taxonomy, food habits and habitat selection (especially denning habitat)
· Information on the short and long-term effects of climate change and sea ice change on the distribution and abundance of polar bears and their principal prey;
· Information on the effects of other potential threats to the species, including oil and gas development, contaminants, hunting and poaching, and;
· Information concerning whether any populations of the species may qualify as distinct population segments.
At the conclusion of the status review, a "12-month finding" will be published announcing the Service's determination. If the listing is believed to be warranted, the Service will publish a proposed rule to list the species at the end of the 12-month process, unless the action is precluded by the need to undertake higher priority actions on other species.
On February 16, 2005 the Service was petitioned to list the polar bear as threatened and to designate critical habitat. The petition contained detailed information on the natural history and biology of the polar bear and on the current status and distribution of and perceived threats to the species. The petitioner submitted additional information in a letter received in December 2005, to be considered along with the information in the initial petition. The new information was included in the original petition and considered as a new petition, thus restarting the statutory deadline for making a 12-month finding.
You can read the finding, and obtain information on how to provide comments, in the Federal Register after February 9th, or by contacting the Service's Marine Mammals Management office at (907) 786-3800.
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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 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 Assistance program, which 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