For Immediate Release October 3, 2006
by Chad Kister
From 1985 to 1995, polar bears denned on land an average of 36.6 percent of the time, and the rest of the time out on the ice of the Arctic Ocean, according to the USGS. But with pack ice having reduced in thickness 42 percent in 40 years, new findings show that now polar bears denned on land 63.6 percent of the time between 1996 and 2005.
This was reported by world renowned polar bear expert Dr. Steven Amstrup, who works for the USGS September 24. The degree of change in polar bear behavior in just one decade, along with the 15 percent decline in both their numbers and average weight of the specie in the last 20 years, should be a wake of call as to the speed global warming is occurring. We must take action, before it is too late.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the main place for polar bear to den in North America. Already 95 percent of the North Slope of Alaska is potentially opened to oil development. The last 5 percent is the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Arctic Refuge coastal plain is the most heavily used polar bear denning area on the North Slope of Alaska. It is the only polar bear denning area that is in an area that is a conservation area. One would think a refuge would mean protection, but Global Warming Bush is out to drill even in the most sacrosanct place on our continent.
It is the coastal plain where they want to drill for oil, right where the polar bear increasingly need to den. It is also where 130,000 caribou go to raise their calves. The nursery ground is the birthplace of the Porcupine Caribou Herd that feeds 17 Gwich’in villages as well as the Inupiat peoples who live on islands in the Arctic Ocean.
It is not just some place way of north, it directly affects all of us in America, and in 6 continents worldwide. More than 160 species of birds from all 50 states and 6 continents go to breed on the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge.
We must protect this special place, which would not impact U.S. oil supplies because there is plenty of oil to keep the Trans Alaskan Pipeline pumping for decades in the 95 percent of the North Slope oil companies already have.
Concurrently, we must begin to tackle climate change, by demanding efficiency of energy use and a switch to clean solar and wind power. We can do it. We have the technology. We must make the switch to renewable energy, and do it fast!
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Kister is the author of Arctic Quest: Odyssey Through a Threatened Wilderness Area and Arctic Melting: How Climate Change is Destroying One of the World’s Largest Wilderness Areas, both published by Common Courage Press. Kister is also the Producer of the 2006 film Caribou People.