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

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

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: August 2016