For Immediate Release

January 2, 2007

Contact: Author Chad Kister (740) 707-4110 or 740-753-3888 or

The full-length press release is at:              

Polar Bear Threatened Status means need to protect Arctic Refuge

Move should also prompt needed federal greenhouse gas limits

            With the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain being the densest denning ground of polar bear on the continent, the recent proposal to list the species as threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service should prompt federal action to permanently protect the coastal plain as wilderness.

            The 154 page report proposing after months of review by 12 independent reviewers and 10 peer reviewers, shows resoundingly why the polar bear must be listed threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and proposes measures to give protection for the species, such as limitations on oil and gas development and greenhouse gas reductions.  Sea ice recession was found to threatened the species, the USFWS found.

            The polar bear is the global canary in the coal mine for climate change.  Our collective actions to either change the and begin to slow, stop and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or continue the status quo of destruction will decide whether the polar bear lives free in the wild, or survives only in air conditioned zoos.

            The polar bear can travel more than 3,000 miles/year to follow the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean as it freezes into the Bering Strait and all throughout the circumpolar Arctic in the winter, and thaws in the summer.  Formerly, the ice thaw would still keep pack ice along the edge of the Arctic Ocean land masses, such as northern Alaska , for most of the summer.  At most, the ice was a dozen or two miles away and polar bear could swim to it.

            Within the last 2 decades, however, the pack ice has retreated hundreds of miles from the shoreline.  Polar bears swimming out to where pack ice had been for millennia find only open water.  They are dying in large numbers by drowning.

            Other bears are trapped on the mainland, waiting for ice that formers later and later each year in our fast-changing climate.  They need the ice to hunt, mate and survive.

            One decade ago, an average of about one third of polar bear denned on land, with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain being the most important area for denning in North America .  The rest of the bears denned out on the pack ice, which was much thicker.  Sea ice has decreased in thickness by 45 percent in the last 40 years.

            Because of the decreased ice, today scientists find that two thirds of polar bear den on land, with only a third now denning on the thinning ice.  That is a drastic change in a short time period, and accentuates the need to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and mandate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

            The number of polar bear cubs has decreased by 15 percent in two decades, and have experienced a similar decrease in average weight during the same time period.  The bears, which can live to be 32 years old, have an extremely low reproductive rate.  They don’t mate until age 4 or 5, and spend two years and four months rearing their cubs, meaning three years between having cubs.  They usually have two cubs, but sometimes one, and rarely three.

            The new Congress should work on the real priorities of the future: protecting our last wild places like the Arctic Refuge, and mandating the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, no matter Global Warming Bush’s wishes.