A panel of judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has upheld the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's designation of critical habitat for the polar bear, thus overturning a January 2013 ruling by federal District Court in Alaska, rejecting the critical habitat rule.
Following its 2009 listing of the polar bear as threatened under the terms of the Endangered Species Act, in November 2010 Fish & Wildlife issued a critical habitat designation for the bears. That designation, covering a total area of 187,157 square miles, included those areas of the Arctic Alaska offshore continental shelf where water depths are 300 meters (980 feet) or less in depth; barrier islands and spits along Alaska's northern coast; and polar bear, on-land denning habitat along the Beaufort Sea coast.
Concerned about the possible impact of the habitat designation on economic activity in the Arctic, a number of organization including the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, the American Petroleum Institute and the State of Alaska appealed the designation in District Court. The 9th Circuit court order is the latest development in that appeal.
The 9th Circuit panel has concluded that, in making the critical habitat designation, Fish & Wildlife did not act in an arbitrary and capricious manner, and had reached rational conclusions from the best available scientific data.
- ALAN BAILEY
See story in March 6 issue, available online Friday, March 4 at www.PetroleumNews.com