[Federal Register: February 9, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 27)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 6745-6746]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Petition To List 
the Polar Bear as Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding and initiation of status 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to list the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) 
as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). We find that the petition presents substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that the petitioned action of listing 
the polar bear may be warranted. We, therefore, are initiating a status 
review of the polar bear to determine if listing under the Act is 
warranted. To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, we are 
soliciting scientific and commercial information regarding this 

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before April 10, 2006.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and/or 
information concerning this species and the status review by any one of 
the following methods:
    1. You may submit written comments and information to the 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marine Mammals Management 
Office, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99503.
    2. You may hand-deliver written comments to our office at the 
address given above.
    3. You may send your comments by electronic mail (e-mail) directly 
to the Service at AK_Polarbear@fws.gov, or to the Federal eRulemaking 
Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. Your submission must include 

``Attn: Polar Bear'' in the beginning of your message, and you must not 
use special characters or any form of encryption. Electronic 
attachments in standard formats (such as .pdf or .doc) are acceptable, 
but please name the software necessary to open any attachments in 
formats other than those given above. Also, please include your name 
and return address in your e-mail message. If you do not receive a 
confirmation from the system that we have received your e-mail message, 
please submit your comments in writing using one of the alternate 
methods described above. In the event that our Internet connection is 
not functional, please submit your comments by one of the alternate 
methods mentioned above.

telephone, 907-786-3800; facsimile, 907-786-3816.


Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this status review 
will be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we solicit 
comments or suggestions from the public, concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party. We are opening a 60-day public comment period to allow all 
interested parties an opportunity to provide information on the status 
of the polar bear throughout its range, including:
    (1) Information on taxonomy, distribution, habitat selection 
(especially denning habitat), food habits, population density and 
trends, habitat trends, and effects of management on polar bears;
    (2) Information on the effects of climate change and sea ice change 
on the distribution and abundance of polar bears and their principal 
prey over the short- and long-term;
    (3) Information on the effects of other potential threat factors, 
including oil and gas development, contaminants, hunting, poaching, and 
changes of the distribution and abundance of polar bears and their 
principal prey over the short and long term;
    (4) Information on management programs for polar bear conservation, 
including mitigation measures related to oil and gas exploration and 
development, hunting conservation programs, anti-poaching programs, and 
any other private, tribal, or governmental conservation programs which 
benefit polar bears, and
    (5) Information relevant to whether any populations of the species 
may qualify as distinct population segments.
    We will base our finding on a review of the best scientific and 
commercial information available, including all information received 
during the public comment period.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home addresses from the record, which we will honor to the extent 
allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which we would 
withhold from the record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. 
If you wish us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state 
this prominently at the beginning of your comment. However, we will not 
consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.
    All comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at our 
Anchorage, Marine Mammals Management Office (see ADDRESSES).


    We received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity 
dated February 16, 2005, to list the polar bear as threatened 
throughout its range with critical habitat in the United States. The 
petition, which was clearly identified as such, contained detailed 
information on the natural history and biology of the polar bear, and 
the current status and distribution of the species. It also contained 
information on what they reported as potential threats to the species 
from climate change, oil and gas development, contaminants, hunting, 
and poaching. The petition also discussed existing regulatory 
mechanisms and their perceived inadequacy. In a letter dated July 5, 
2005, the petitioners informed us that two additional parties were 
joining as petitioners: The Natural Resources Defense Council and 
Greenpeace, Inc. In the same letter, the petitioners informed us of two 
new scientific articles, Henson et al. 2005, and Stroeve et al. 2005, 
that they wanted us to take into consideration when conducting our 
evaluation on the petition to list the polar bear. The petitioner 
further submitted new information in a letter received on December 27, 
2005, to be considered, along with the information in the initial 
petition, in making our 90-day finding.
    Subsequent to the filing of the initial petition with the Service, 
a petitioner may submit additional information relevant to the 
petitioned action. If the petitioner requests that the Service consider 
the information in making the 90-day finding on the petition, the 
Service will treat the new information,

[[Page 6746]]

together with the information in the initial petition, as a new 
petition filed on the date that the new information is received. In 
such case, the Service will consider the initial petition to be 
withdrawn by the petitioner. This has the effect of ``resetting the 
clock'' for the purpose of calculating the statutory deadlines under 
section 4(b)(3) of the Act. Applying this reasoning to the Center for 
Biological Diversity's petition regarding the polar bear, we consider 
the petition to have been received on December 27, 2005.
    On the basis of information provided in the petition we have 
determined that the petition presents substantial scientific or 
commercial information that listing the polar bear as threatened may be 
warranted. Therefore, we are initiating a status review to determine if 
listing the species is warranted. To ensure that the status review is 
comprehensive, we are soliciting scientific and commercial information 
regarding this species. Under section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act, we are 
required to make a finding as to whether listing the polar bear is 
warranted by December 27, 2006.
    The petitioners also requested that critical habitat be designated 
for this species. We always consider the need for critical habitat 
designation when listing species. If we determine in our 12-month 
finding that listing the polar bear is warranted, we will address the 
designation of critical habitat in a subsequent proposed rule.


    The primary author of this document is Scott Schliebe, Polar Bear 
Project Leader, Marine Mammals Management Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973 as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: February 3, 2006.
H. Dale Hall,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 06-1226 Filed 2-8-06; 8:45 am]