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Oil Companies to Keep Disturbing Polar Bears

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to allow oil and gas developers on the Beaufort Sea and Alaskan coast to continue to disturb polar bears and Pacific walruses incidental to their exploration and development operations.

The agency's proposed five year management plan replicates the same level of authorized non-lethal and unintentional take of polar bears and walruses as was in the previous 5-year Beaufort Sea incidental take regulations effective through Aug. 2, 2011.

According to the proposal, oil and gas operations in the area have had a negligible impact on the Beaufort Sea populations of the two sea mammals, which are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The agency said that it has made more than 2,000 observations of the impact of industry activity on polar bears and walruses, and the most common disturbance of the animals results from noise.

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