US Sets Aside Land in Alaska for Polar Bears
187K square miles to be preserve for endangered species
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 24, 2010 3:42 PM CST
A polar bear eats artificial snow in Moscow Zoo, Wednesday, July 21, 2010, Russia.   (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)
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(Newser) – The Obama administration is setting aside 187,000 square miles in Alaska as a "critical habitat" for polar bears, which could add restrictions to future offshore drilling for oil and gas. Nearly 95% of the designated habitat is sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska's northern coast.

Designation of critical habitat does not in itself block economic activity or other development but requires federal officials to consider whether a proposed action would harm the bear's habitat. The Interior Department has declared polar bears "threatened," or likely to become endangered, citing a dramatic loss of sea ice.