WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft economic analysis on the impact of the proposed designation of critical habitat for the polar bear and reopened the comment period on the proposed designation, in face of drastic reduction in the ice pack at the North Pole.
The agency has proposed to designate approximately 187,000 square miles of ocean and land as critical habitat for the polar bear. Polar bears depend on sea ice to hunt, and the rapidly shrinking ice pack has imperiled the bears.
The polar bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act on May 14, 2008 due to loss of sea ice habitat caused by climate change. Other threats included the impacts from activities such as oil and gas operations, subsistence harvest, shipping and tourism.
In the analysis, the agency estimates the economic impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation for the polar bear through 2039 will amount to less than $1 million. The analysis focuses on the impacts to oil and gas exploration, development, and production, and associated construction projects, because these are the principal human activities in the proposed area.
The agency believes most of the costs associated with the designation will be administrative, to comply with permitting and consultations required by such a designation.
Although President Obama recently announced the sale of more off-shore oil leases, the administration has already cancelled the sale of leases in the proposed critical habitat area.