January 12th, 2007 03:29 EST
Alaska Region Announces the Opening of the 90-Day Comment Period on the Proposal to List Polar Bears as a Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act.
On January 9, 2007, a ?12-Month Petition Finding and Proposed Rule to List the Polar Bear as Threatened Throughout Its Range? was published in the Federal Register. The Service has found that the petition for listing the polar bear as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act is ?Warranted.? This notice, as well as supporting documents, is available on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service?s web page at: http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/polarbear/issues.htm. On December 27, 2006, prior to publication in the Federal Register, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne issued a press release and held a press conference announcing the Service?s intent to propose listing the polar bear as a Threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Scientific evidence of loss of sea ice habitat, continued losses projected into the foreseeable future, and consequences to polar bear populations were the basis for the proposed listing.
Publication of this 12-Month Finding in the Federal Register initiates a 90-day comment period. The Service requests comments or information from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested party concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning:
Comments and information will be accepted until 5:00 P.M. Alaska Time on April 9, 2007, and may be submitted to: Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marine Mammals Management Office,
- Information on taxonomy, distribution, habitat selection (especially denning habitat), food habits, population density and trends, habitat trends, and effects of management on polar bears;
- Information on the effects of sea ice change on the distribution and abundance of polar bears and their principal prey over the short- and long-term;
- Information on the effects of other potential listing factors, including oil and gas development, contaminants, ecotourism, hunting, and poaching on the distribution and abundance of polar bears and their principal prey over the short and long term;
- Information on regulatory mechanisms and management programs for polar bear conservation, including mitigation measures related to oil and gas exploration and development, hunting conservation programs, anti-poaching programs, and any other private, tribal, or governmental conservation programs which benefit polar bears;
- Specific areas that may meet the definition of critical habitat, and the specific physical and biological features that should or should not be considered for a proposed critical habitat designation as provided by section 4 of the Act;
- Information relevant to whether any populations of the species may qualify as distinct population segments; and,
- The data and studies referred to within the proposal.
1011 East Tudor Road MS-341, Anchorage, Alaska 99503; or, you may hand deliver written comments to the Marine Mammals Management Office at the above address; or, you may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) directly to the Service at: Polar_Bear_Finding@fws.gov or to the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.
After the 90-day comment period closes, the Service will analyze all the information available and publish a Final Rule within one year of this publication date.
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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 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.
Charles Hamilton (907) 786-3804
Bruce Woods (907) 786-3695