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Alaska argues to keep polar bears off endangered species list, with populations at 'all-time-high'

Alaska is fighting to keep polar bears off the endangered species list, arguing that populations are "at an all-time high."

Polar bear zooEnlarge
A polar bear stands during feeding at Hagenbeck Zoo in Hamburg, northern Germany, on October 10, 2012. The new Eismeer (polar sea) has been open for 100 days at the zoo. (MARCUS BRANDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Alaska is fighting to keep polar bears off the endangered species list, arguing that populations are "at an all-time high."

According to Reuters, a lawyer for Alaska and other parties including the Safari Club and the California Cattlemen's Association, argues that regulators had failed to back up the listing of polar bears under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Murray Feldman, in appealing a federal court ruling last year that upheld the Interior Department's 2008 designation of the bears as threatened.

While the Arctic mammals are not on the brink, McClatchy wrote, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has said that sea-ice melting will lead to two-thirds of the world's polar bears dying out by 2050.

However, Feldman told the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the government had failed to show how the bears likely would be nearing extinction.

The decision was "arbitrary and capricious," Feldman said, and based on flawed models.

However, Katherine Hazard, a lawyer for USFWS, said that the designation relied on decades of research and long-term trends underpinned it.

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"The agency needs to make a determination based on the best available science, which the agency did here," she said.

Her coworker, Bruce Woods, said the at-risk status of the bears has helped draw attention to the animal's struggles and raise money for their conservation.

Reuters also noted that oil and gas companies had been interested in stripping the bear of its designation in order to take advantage of some of the bear's habitat for oil exploration or production opportunities.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/wildlife-news/121020/alaska-polar-bears-endangered-species