© Daniel J. Cox/Natural Exposures
1/9/2017 9:41:28 AM
A Plan for Alaska's Polar Bears
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released the final version of the Conservation Management Plan for polar bears, following an extensive public comment period. The plan represents nearly four years of work by the Polar Bear Recovery Team, a group appointed by the USFWS that represents science and management expertise and a broad range of perspectives from communities, industry, and conservation organizations. The plan emphasizes that global action on climate change is necessary for the polar bear’s long-term survival, but outlines a path to help the bears in the meantime.
The steps include:
- Working to reduce polar bear-human conflicts, which are expected to increase as the sea ice retreats
- Establishing guidelines to protect polar bear dens and to minimize the risk of oil spills
- Collaboratively managing subsistence harvest
- Funding research and monitoring efforts to ensure the plan is working as intended
Geoff York, PBI’s senior director of conservation and staff scientist, served on the Polar Bear Recovery Team that developed the plan.
“Taken together, these steps will help conserve Alaska’s polar bears in the short term,” he said, “but unless we curb greenhouse gas emissions and reverse Arctic sea ice loss, the polar bear’s future remains at risk from our warming world.”
In a press release, the USFWS stated that many of the steps outlined have already been launched, working in partnership with Alaska Native communities, nonprofit groups, and industry representatives who participated in the plan’s creation. For example, PBI has been conducting den studies to collect data that will help set guidelines for protecting polar bear dens and is also involved in efforts to reduce polar bear-human conflicts.