More Information
Scholastic News Online

Scholastic News Online is a free resource with breaking news and highlights from the print magazine.

Available for grades 1-6, Scholastic News magazine brings high-interest current events and nonfiction to millions of classrooms each week.

Additionally, our subscribers have FREE access to Scholastic News Interactive, an exclusive online learning tool featuring digital editions, videos, interactive features, differentiated articles, and much more.

Polar Bear Protection Program

Arctic animals listed as threatened species in the U.S.

By Laura Leigh Davidson | May 16 , 2008
Photo of polar bears taken along the Beaufort Sea Coastline of Alaska. (Photo: Susanne Miller/USFWS)
Photo of polar bears taken along the Beaufort Sea Coastline of Alaska. (Photo: Susanne Miller/USFWS)

After months of consideration, the U.S. government has officially listed the polar bear as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne outlined the landmark decision on Wednesday.

"Today's decision is based on three findings," Kempthorne said. "First, sea ice is vital to polar bear survival. Second, the polar bear's sea-ice habitat has dramatically melted in recent decades. Third, computer models suggest sea ice is likely to further recede in the future."

Warming temperatures in the Arctic region where most polar bears live have caused the sea ice to melt. Polar bears depend on the seals they hunt on the ice for their main source of food. The bears also travel, mate, and even give birth on the sea ice.

"Because polar bears are vulnerable to this loss of habitat, they are—in my judgment—likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future," Kempthorne said.

The scientific analysis and recommendation to list the bears as threatened came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

An Endangered First

This is the first time the ESA has been used to protect a species whose habitat is disappearing due to global warming. Global warming is caused by an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are released when humans burn fossil fuels like coal, fuel oil, and natural gas.

Conservation groups and scientists who champion the polar bears' cause have called for laws that provide specific limits to emission of greenhouse gases. They believe these limits could slow global warming, and help stop the sea ice from melting.

But Kempthorne says the science he based his decision on does not support a direct link between the danger to polar bears and the activities that release greenhouse gases.

"Listing the polar bear as threatened can reduce avoidable losses of polar bears," he explained. "But it should not open the door to use the ESA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, power plants, and other sources."

So How Will the Polar Bear Be Protected?

The ESA protects species and habitats from activities that might harm them. Exactly what specific protections will be given to the polar bears is still undecided.

Margaret Williams of the global conservation organization World Wildlife Fund said the ESA listing is important for protecting polar bears.

"The ESA listing will require that critical habitat be identified [and] that a recovery plan be put into place, and those are important steps forward," she said.

The ESA defines critical habitat as ecosystem elements that must be present and properly functioning to assure a species can survive.

Williams believes addressing global warming is key to the polar bears' survival.

"The bottom line is that climate change and warming temperatures are changing the Arctic dramatically, and that is the overall issue we need to address," she said.


Learn more about how environmental changes affect the world in this special report.


Get the latest on national and international events, movies, television, music, sports, and more from Scholastic News Online.


  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    In the Rain Forest

    In the Rain Forest

    by Dina Anastasio

    Reptiles in camouflage, vivid blossoms, endangered animals. The exotic beauty of the rain forest is captured in full-color photographs and described through glossary-style informative text. A fact-filled book that is great for supporting social studies.

    $3.71 You save: 25%
    Paperback Book | Grades 3-5
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    In the Rain Forest
    Grades 3-5 $3.71
    Add To Cart
  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Grade 2 (Levels E-N)

    Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Grade 2 (Levels E-N)

    Available August 2015!

    The all-new Guided Reading Short Reads brings the same high-quality nonfiction of the original Guided Reading Short Reads to both Spanish and English-speaking learners. Access to short informational texts builds vocabulary acquisition and content area knowledge for all students, providing rich support for students who are learning Spanish, and building confidence in Spanish-speaking learners that they will carry over to their English instruction.

    NEW! Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas:
    •Fits seamlessly into classroom guided reading groups
    •Teaches strategies for decoding and comprehending complex texts
    •Builds rich domain-specific vocabulary across content areas
    •Engages students with thematically linked passages across text types
    •Provides sufficiently complex, short informational texts worthy of being read, reread, and analyzed

    Each level includes:
    •10 Student Informational Text Cards, 6 copies each
    •1 Teaching Guide
    •Magazine-style storage box

    Set Includes:
    • 588414 Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Level E
    • 588415 Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Level F
    • 588416 Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Level G
    • 588417 Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Level H
    • 588418 Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Level I
    • 588419 Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Level J
    • 588420 Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Level K
    • 588421 Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Level L
    • 588422 Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Level M
    • 588423 Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Level N

    Visit the Scholastic Guided Reading Program website for more information.

    $879.00 You save: 33%
    Supplementary Collection | Grade 2
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    Guided Reading Lecturas Cortas Grade 2 (Levels E-N)
    Grade 2 $879.00
    Add To Cart
Privacy Policy




Here's something interesting from