Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

Oil Companies Get OK to Annoy Polar Bears

June 17, 2008

Less than a month after declaring polar bears a threatened species because of global warming, the Bush administration is giving oil companies permission to annoy and potentially harm them in the pursuit of oil and natural gas.

The Fish and Wildlife Service issued regulations this week providing legal protection to seven oil companies planning to search for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea off the northwestern coast of Alaska if “small numbers” of polar bears or Pacific walruses are incidentally harmed by their activities over the next five years.

Environmentalists said the new regulations give oil companies a blank check to harass the polar bear.

About 2,000 of the 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic live in and around the Chukchi Sea, where the government in February auctioned off oil leases to ConocoPhillips Co., Shell Oil Co. and five other companies for $2.6 billion. Over objections from environmentalists and members of Congress, the sale occurred before the bear was classified as threatened in May.

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Alaska Will Sue to Block U.S. Listing of Polar Bears as ‘Threatened’

May 23, 2008

The state of Alaska will sue to challenge the recent listing of polar bears as a threatened species, Gov. Sarah Palin announced Wednesday.

She and other Alaska elected officials fear a listing will cripple oil and gas development in prime polar bear habitat off the state’s northern and northwestern coasts.

Palin argued that there is not enough evidence to support a listing. Polar bears are well-managed and their population has dramatically increased over 30 years as a result of conservation, she said.

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Most North Pacific Humpback Whale Populations Rebounding

May 22, 2008

The number of humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean has increased since international and federal protections were enacted in the 1960s and 70s, according to a new study funded primarily by NOAA and conducted by more than 400 whale researchers throughout the Pacific region.

However, some isolated populations of humpbacks, especially those in the Western Pacific Ocean, have not recovered at the same rate and still suffer low numbers.

The new research reveals that the overall population of humpbacks has rebounded to approximately 18,000 to 20,000 animals. The population of humpback whales in the North Pacific, at least half of whom migrate between Alaska and Hawaii, numbered less than 1,500 in 1966 when international whaling for this species was banned. In the 1970s, federal laws including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act provided additional protection.

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Bison Can Thrive Again, Study Says

May 5, 2008

Bison can repopulate large areas from Alaska to Mexico over the next 100 years provided a series of conservation and restoration measures are taken, according to continental assessment of this iconic species by the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups.

The assessment was authored by a diverse group of conservationists, scientists, ranchers, and Native Americans/First Nations peoples, and appears in the April issue of the journal Conservation Biology.

The authors say that ecological restoration of bison, a keystone species in American natural history, could occur where conservationists and others see potential for large, unfettered landscapes over the next century. The general sites identified in the paper range from grasslands and prairies in the southwestern U.S., to Arctic lowland taiga in Alaska where the sub-species wood bison could once again roam. Large swaths of mountain forests and grasslands are identified as prime locations across Canada and the U.S., while parts of the desert in Mexico could also again support herds that once lived there.

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Historic Alaska Sled Dog Race Revived! MUSH!

March 25, 2008

A century after the birth of long-distance sled dog racing, 16 mushers are set to retrace a historic run in western Alaska and compete for a $100,000 winner-take-all purse.

The All Alaska Sweepstakes begins Wednesday, launching a 408-mile round trip from Nome, an old gold rush town best known as the finish line of the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race held earlier this month.

In a departure from that famous race, however, the lucrative sweepstakes is allowing the participation of an Iditarod musher serving a two-year suspension for abusing his dogs. It also carries some rules left over from the past, including a ban on dropping tired or injured dogs along a route that crosses mountainous terrain marked by punishing wind and subzero temperatures.

“This is about who has the best team, not who is the best musher,” said race director Phil Schobert. “There’s intentionally a lot of challenge in it so the mushers have to take a lot of care for their dogs. This race is 100 percent about the dogs.”

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I’m always disappointed that Nome isn’t spelled Gnome.  Gnomes like animals.  Just ask David, the Gnome!  He’ll tell you how much he LOOOOVES his fox, Swift.  Besides, he was also a veterinarian!

Sorry.  I had to do that.  David the Gnome was one of my favorite shows as a kid.

Un-bear-able

January 2, 2008

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Throughout most of the world humans have exterminated carnivores in order to keep their places of habitation safe, and while large carnivores still exist in patches we have a sort of “You keep to your side, I’ll keep to my side,” sort of attitude towards them. The problem, however, is that we keep expanding our towns and villages out into areas where large carnivores live, some areas experiencing an increased level of conflict. Leopards eat stray dogs in the slums of Mumbai, wolves kill dogs left outside in Alaska, black bears raid trash cans in New Jersey suburbs, and even polar bears are starting to head into towns with a greater frequency as the local ecology changes. I don’t list such incidents to say that we’re experiencing some sort of epidemic and that carnivores should again be killed without mercy, but rather that we are changing ecology on local and global scales that can often bring large carnivores into contact with people. Sadly, human deaths do sometimes result due to this close proximity, but carnivores are an essential part of many ecologies and tragedy can often be avoided with proper education and management.

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