Conserving the Nature of America

News Release


June 25, 2007


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

The Department of the Interior has convened an international conference of five countries with polar bear populations to exchange information about polar bear conservation and management under the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears, which provides for periodic consultations between the treaty signatories to discuss management of migrating polar bear populations.

The international conference, which will meet for three days beginning June 26 at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, will include delegations from the United States, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway. The five countries will share information about the status of polar bears and their management programs, and identify areas where the nations can further collaborate to advance polar bear conservation through research, monitoring, or management. The United States delegation is chaired by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall. The U.S. country report for the conference and other information will be available online ( at the meetings conclusion.

Interest in the status of the polar bear has surged since January 2007, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed protecting this icon of the Arctic as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act throughout its range. The Services proposal was based on a scientific review assessing the current status and future outlook for the species. Since then, Service biologists have worked to gather information to help guide the agencys final decision on whether to protect the bears.

At the close of the public comment period on the Services proposal to add the polar bear to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, the agency had received 600,000 responses. The comments were from other federal agencies and governments, state agencies, Alaska native tribes and tribal organizations, commissions, local governments, commercial and trade organizations, conservation organizations, assorted non-governmental organizations, and private citizens. The Service has also received extensive peer review comments from a wide range of scientists and other individuals and organizations with expertise in polar bear biology and management, ice seals (a favorite polar bear prey), and climatology.

While many public comments express support or opposition to the Services proposal to list the polar bear, under the Endangered Species Act the Services final decision must be based solely on credible scientific and technical information provided by respondents and gathered by the Service.

The Service is working with scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey, who are conducting a number of research projects on polar bears, and is receiving information from other scientists who have studied the worlds 19 populations of polar bears.

The Service is scheduled to make a final decision on whether to protect the polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act by January 2008. Polar bears are currently protected under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. More information is available online at:

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 547 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources 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 and Native American tribal 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.

Information contained in older news items may be outdated. These materials are made available as historical archival information only. Individual contacts have been replaced with general External Affairs office information. No other updates have been made to the information and we do not guarantee current accuracy or completeness.

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