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Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet

October 22, 2009


Contact: Kristina Johnson
(415) 977-5619


Sierra Club Applauds Habitat Designation for Polar Bear
Offshore Drilling Threat Remains


Washington, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal to designate more than 128 million acres of Alaskan coastline and waters as critical habitat for the polar bear. In May 2008 the Department of the Interior listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Today's proposal, required by the Endangered Species Act, follows on a decision earlier this week by the Minerals Management Service to approve offshore oil drilling in key polar bear habitat in Alaska's Beaufort Sea. The agency is also considering drilling plans for polar bear habitat in the Chukchi Sea.


Statement of Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope:


We applaud the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for designating critical habitat for the polar bear. This is an important first step. Now, if we want America's polar bears to survive, we must also address global warming and eliminate the threat of offshore drilling.


There is no question that polar bears are in trouble. Studies have documented plunging survival rates for polar bear cubs and diminishing body weights for adults as a result of melting sea ice. Bears that are accustomed to hunting on ice have been stranded on land, and in some cases have drowned. Scientists warn that without protection, polar bears could disappear by 2050.


We need to do everything possible to help polar bears survive, including eliminating the threat of offshore drilling. There is no environmentally sound way to drill for oil polar bear habitat. Pipelines, boat traffic, drilling platforms, and ice-breaking vessels are just a few of the risks that come with offshore oil development.
Where there is drilling, there are oil spills. There is no proven method for cleaning up oil in the Arctic’s broken sea ice, and once a bear makes contact with even a small amount of oil, it loses its ability to insulate and can die of hypothermia and ingestion.


We don’t need to sacrifice polar bears and other wildlife just so oil companies can break their billion-dollar profit records. America already has the technology and the will to embrace a clean energy economy that will end our dependence on oil and leave pristine places like the Arctic and its wildlife intact.

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