Judge Halts Polar Bear Habitat Protection

Oil wins big against bears

polar bear drilling arctic oil

A polar bear with nowhere to go.     Photo: Martin Lopatka/Flickr

A U.S. federal court in Alaska has overturned a rule put in place by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would protect over 187,000 miles of the state's coastline as designated critical polar bear habitat. The measure was put in place after the polar bear was added to the government's "threatened species" list in 2011. The judge's ruling was in response to a suit brought by the state of Alaska and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, who claimed the designation was unnecessarily large.

While the judge said the federal rule was "valid in many respects," "procedural deficiencies" were ignored in its creation. The judge stated that once that USFWS followed procedure, it could be reinstated.

The Governor of Alaska praised the judge's decision saying that the development prohibition would hinder Alaska's economy.

Environmental activists saw the ruling as a minor obstacle. “The decision in the polar bear critical habitat case is a temporary setback for conservation,” Kassie Siegel of the Climate Law Institute told The Daily Caller. “However, we anticipate that critical habitat for the polar bear will be reinstated shortly, because the government can easily remedy the problems Judge Beistline identified in his decision and re-issue the rule.”

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