In compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) must designate critical habitat for each species under its jurisdiction listed under the ESA. Critical habitat is defined as “specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, if they contain physical or biological features essential to conservations, and those features may require special management considerations for protection” and “specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species if the agency determines that the area itself is essential for conservation.”
Polar bear critical habitat (PDF 507 kB) encompasses 187,157 square miles within the State of Alaska and adjacent territorial and U.S. waters. It consists of three units: Sea Ice Critical Habitat, Denning Critical Habitat, and Barrier Island Critical Habitat.