New Alaskan drilling could cause more damage to already dwindling polar bear populations.© Getty Images
Last week the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) gave the green light to oil and natural gas development across 46,000 miles of the Chukchi Sea north of the Bering Strait in the Arctic Ocean. Environmentalists from a wide range of groups including National Audubon Society, WWF, Alaska Wilderness League and Northern Alaska Environmental Center are opposed to the plan as the area contains one of only two American populations of polar bears. Polar bear numbers have been in free-fall in recent years as the marine mammal"s sea ice habitat shrinks in the face of global warming.
"The polar bear’s existence is increasingly threatened by the impact of climate change-induced loss of sea ice," Margaret Williams of WWF told reporters. "The chances for the continued survival of this icon of the Arctic will be greatly diminished if its remaining critical habitat is turned into a vast oil and gas field."
MMS believes drills can recover some 15 billion barrels of oil and 77 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from the area without damaging wildlife populations. While the agency says it will monitor the health of marine mammal populations as well as pollution throughout the 30 million acre expanse of ocean in question, environmentalists wonder if such studies will be too little too late for polar bears and other arctic wildlife.
Source: Herald Tribune