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US court hears arguments on polar bear habitat

August 11, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A U.S. Justice Department lawyer has urged appeals court judges to overturn a lower court’s decision rejecting the federal government’s plan to designate a huge swath of the Arctic as critical habitat for endangered polar bears — over the wishes of the state of Alaska and trade associations.

Lawyer Robert Stockman on Tuesday argued the critical habitat designation of an area larger than California was as specific as it could be to protect polar bears based on the best available science.

About 95 percent of the designated habitat is ocean. The other 5 percent is along the northern Alaska coast.

U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline in 2013 said geographical features needed by female polar bears for creating dens and giving births were not shown to be present on much of the land the government plans to designate as critical habitat.

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