On Thin Ice
In the face of climate change and offshore drilling, biologists are tracking walruses to better understand their behavior and protect the areas most important to them.
Audubon Alaska is among those groups identifying biologically important areas in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. The group created an atlas that documents habitat, from where seabirds nest to the migratory paths of bowhead whales, to help inform management policies. Audubon Alaska plans to submit an analysis to the Interior Department on the rich diversity of sea life on the outer continental shelf during the upcoming public comment period concerning leasing for oil and gas exploration. "We learned of some of the places that are very important for certain species, but there's still so much we don't know," says Melanie Smith, Audubon Alaska's landscape ecologist. "We can't stop the sea ice from melting, at least not in the immediate future. So the best thing we can do is protect the places we know are important and keep looking [forward]."
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Submit written comments on the draft proposal until January 9, 2012, online here or as letters directed to: J. F. Bennett, Chief, Division of Environmental Assessment, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 381 Elden Street, Mail Stop 4042, Herndon, VA 20170-4817.