A milestone measure to protect an area off the coast of Alaska as critical habitat for ringed seals was proposed this week. The protections, drafted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), would apply to 226 million acres - an area twice the size of California - in Alaska's Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
The move would protect an ecosystem that's severely threatened by climate change. Ringed seals, for one, depend on the ice - they live under it for protection and create snow caves on top of it to nurse their young. The species is already listed as threatened by the Endangered Species Act. But the protections would also help many other species that live there, like polar bears, the main predator of ringed seals.
"This isn't just a victory for ringed seals. The melting sea ice that is so crucial to ringed seals supports a wide variety of wildlife, including polar bears and walruses," said Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity.