Nov. 24, 2010 -- WASHINGTON (Agence France Presse) -- The U.S. government Wednesday designated "critical habitat" for polar bears who live on Alaska's disappearing sea ice, a move that could impact new oil and gas drilling projects in the Arctic.
The Fish and Wildlife Service set aside 187,000 square miles (484,000 square kilometers) off Alaska as the threatened bears' habitat, which means any project that could impact the animals' way of life must undergo careful review.
"This critical habitat designation enables us to work with federal partners to ensure their actions within its boundaries do not harm polar bear populations," said Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
"Nevertheless, the greatest threat to the polar bear is the melting of its sea ice habitat caused by human-induced climate change. We will continue to work toward comprehensive strategies for the long-term survival of this iconic species."