WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that declared the polar bear threatened under the Endangered Species Act a month ago is allowing it and the Pacific walrus to be bothered by seven oil companies with new leases in and near Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.
Critics argue that the changes in the bears’ habitat caused by oil drilling will disturb cub-rearing and feeding behaviors, and may help lead to the bears’ demise. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service blames polar bears’ problems on global climate change and states the bear will not come to harm with the rules that are in place.
The government auctioned off oil leases to ConocoPhillips, Shell Oil and others, in February, before a District Court ordered the USFWS to determine whether the bear was endangered, which it did, five months after the statutory deadline.