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.
In 2010, the Service designated critical habitat for the polar bear through a formal rulemaking process. The designation was set aside in 2013 as a result of legal challenges brought forward by several groups. That action was recently reversed by the courts and the original designation has been reinstated.
The Service’s final rule designating polar bear critical habitat, as well as maps of the critical habitat, and other important information may be found at:
- Federal Register Notice
- Final Economic Analysis
- Fact Sheet
- Up-dated Q and A
- Polar Bear Critical Habitat Maps
- Shape files for polar bear critical habitat
Conservation Management Plan
Thanks to the hard work of a diverse team of stakeholders, known as the Polar Bear Recovery Team, the Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan (Plan) is now complete. The Plan serves as a practical guide to implementation of polar bear conservation in the United States. It describes the conditions under which polar bears would no longer need the protections of the Endangered Species Act and lays out a collective strategy geared towards achieving those conditions. A parallel path is laid out for improving the status of polar bears under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
For more information, contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Marine Mammals Management office at 1-800-362-5148.