WWF: United States government moves to reduce climate change threat to polar bears | WWF

WWF: United States government moves to reduce climate change threat to polar bears

Posted on
02 July 2015
A new polar bear conservation plan for the United States is moving in the right direction by addressing climate change, according to WWF. However, the plan can do more to address the immediate threat posed by offshore drilling in Alaska.

The Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan, released today in draft form, calls for the US to commit to emissions reductions, as well as sustainable co-management of subsistence harvest, protection of denning habitat, human-polar bear conflict management, and research on polar bear populations.

Over 30 polar bear experts—including WWF staff—collaborated with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on this roadmap for collective action by by US government agencies toward recovery of polar bear populations.

“The greatest long-term threat to polar bears is the loss of their sea ice habitat in a warming Arctic, and reducing greenhouse gases is the only way to curb that threat", said Margaret Williams, managing director of the WWF-US Arctic program. "By calling for emissions reductions in the conservation plan, the Obama Administration is moving in the right direction."

Williams cautioned that the US must take into account a more immediate threat to polar bears: potential spills from offshore oil and gas development. Oil spills can travel for miles in harsh Arctic waters and foul key polar bear habitat, further stressing the Arctic ecosystem.

“At this moment, Royal Dutch Shell is en route to the Arctic and poised to drill without proven technologies to contain a spill", said Williams. "Based on what we have seen so far, we are concerned that the draft polar bear recovery plan does not adequately address the clear and present threat offshore drilling poses to the Arctic and should be re-evaluated. The federal government’s approval of Shell’s Arctic Exploration Plan is ill-considered and should be re-evaluated as well.”

Previously: US government conditionally approves Shell Arctic drilling despite risks

The plan is part of an Arctic-wide conservation action plan being developed by the five polar bear "range states" (United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia). At the first International Forum on Polar Bear Conservation, held in 2013 and supported by WWF, all five range states pledged to create a comprehensive international plan for polar bears by 2015.

Previously: Leaders commit to conservation measures at Polar Bear Forum

Once complete, the plan will help chart a path towards polar bear resiliency across the Arctic. 
Polar bear, young bear in freezing water during autumn freeze up, Bernard Spit, 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, North Slope, Alaska, Beaufort Sea
© naturepl.com / Steven Kazlowski / WWF