Walrus and Bear Have Nothing to Worry About

     (CN) – Drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s North Slope will not unduly bother polar bears and walruses, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday.
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     The 38-page decision sides with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which found in 2008 that oil and gas exploration in the 90,000-square-mile region would have little impact on the polar bears and Pacific walruses living there.
     The Center for Biological Diversity claimed that the agency had relied on suspect numbers and bad science in preparing the five-year, nonlethal incidental take regulations.
     An Anchorage federal jduge granted summary judgment to the government, and the federal appeals court unanimously affirmed from Fairbanks on Tuesday.
     “We hold that the service permissibly determined that only ‘relatively small numbers’ of polar bears and Pacific walruses would be taken in relation to the size of their larger populations, because the agency separately determined that the anticipated take would have only a ‘negligible impact’ on the mammals’ annual rates of recruitment or survival,” Judge William Fletcher wrote for a three-member panel.
     While the polar bear is listed as a threatened species because of current threats to its sea-ice habitat, the Pacific walrus enjoys no such protection. There are about 3,500 polar bears in Alaska, according to the ruling, and about 200,000 pacific walruses.

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