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Here's a bit of great news for you greenies, animal lovers, and humans who want to protect the climate that is the basis for human civilization.

The Obama administration is setting aside 187,000 square miles in Alaska as a "critical habitat" for polar bears, an action that could add restrictions to future offshore drilling for oil and gas.

The total, which includes areas of sea ice off the Alaska coast, is about 13,000 acres less than in a preliminary plan released last year.

Tom Strickland, assistant Interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, said the designation would help polar bears stave off extinction, recognizing that the greatest threat is the melting of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change.

What a fine bit of environmental news right before the holidays.

As an environmentalist, I have to say, the Obama administration has been lackluster in their response to climate threats to species, this may signal a big change of heart. Thanks to the environmental groups who sued to make this happen.

More details here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated more than 187,000 square miles of on-shore barrier islands, denning areas and offshore sea-ice as critical habitat for the threatened polar bear under the Endangered Species Act.

The designation identifies geographic areas containing features considered essential for the conservation of the bear that require special management or protection.

"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."

DOI

Originally posted to greendem on Wed Nov 24, 2010 at 10:59 AM PST.

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