Posted by: Steven M. Taber | October 22, 2009

In One Week: Feds Protect Polar Bears and Offshore Drilling in Arctic

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had good news today, October 22, 2009, for the conservationists seeking to protect the Polar Bear:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a proposal to designate critical habitat for the polar bear, and will open a 60-day public comment period on the measure. The critical habitat proposal identifies habitat in three separate areas or units: barrier island habitat, sea ice habitat and terrestrial denning habitat. . . . The total area proposed for designation would cover approximately 200,541 square miles and is found entirely within the lands and waters of the United States.

If you look at the maps provided by the FWS (click here for the maps – be patient they are large files), you will note on Map 4that there are substantial “denning habitats” and barrier islands near Point Thomson on Camden Bay.

Rewind about 48 hours and read the News Release that the Department for Interior’s Minerals Management Service sent out on October 19, 2009:

The two leases were obtained by Shell Offshore, Inc. during Beaufort Sea oil and gas lease sales 195 and 202 in 2005 and 2007. The sales were included in the 2002-2007 five year oil and gas leasing program and are not affected by the recent court decision on the current leasing program, which sent the 2007-2012 program back to MMS for additional analysis under section 18 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

And where are those leases that Shell Oil got?  “Shell’s plan is limited to the far western area of Camden Bay, including the use of one drillship with one tending ice management vessel. The two leases are about 16 and 23 miles north of Point Thompson, Alaska.”  Right off the coast of the newly created Polar Bear habitat.

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