A polar bear sow and two cubs on the Beaufort Sea coast within the Arctic National Wildlife Refugee
187,000 square miles in Alaska designated as polar bear habitat
By Matthew Daly
The Obama administration is setting aside 187,000 square miles in Alaska as a "critical habitat" for polar bears, an action that could add restrictions to future offshore drilling for oil and gas.
The total, which includes large areas of sea ice off the Alaska coast, is about 13,000 square miles, or 8.3 million acres, less than an amount planned in a preliminary plan released last year.
Tom Strickland, assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks at the Interior Department, said the designation would help polar bears stave off extinction, recognizing that the greatest threat is the melting of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change.
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