Obama makes appointments to the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
Font Size:

Despite the friction between the United States and Russia concerning the crisis in Syria, the two global superpowers still have at least one thing in common: a shared desire to “safeguard the cultural and traditional use of polar bears by Native peoples.”

President Obama announced two new appointments Tuesday to the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission, which governs how many polar bears native peoples in Alaska and Russia’s Chukokta region are allowed to hunt.

“These fine public servants both bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles.  Our nation will be well-served by these individuals, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come,” Obama said, announcing Geoffrey Haskett and Gary Frazer to the polar bear thing alongside new appointments at the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.

So how did the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission come to be, you ask?

“A treaty between Native and government representatives of the U.S. and Russia was signed in 2000 due to the need for coordinated management of the shared Alaska-Chukotka polar bear population that inhabits the Chukchi and northern Bering seas,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Recent implementation of this treaty which began in 2007 established a joint U.S.-Russia Commission responsible for making management decisions concerning polar bears in this region. The Commission is composed of a Native and federal representative from each country.”

The inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission was held in Moscow in 2009. The following year in Anchorage, the Commission made a landmark agreement setting new regulations on the number of polar bears that are allowed to be harvested per year for subsistence purposes by native peoples in the U.S. and Russia.

Fifty-eight, to be exact. And only 19 are allowed to be female polar bears.

“The decision of the Commission is that the total take should be limited to 58 bears per year to be shared between the United States of America and the Russian Federation,” according to the Federal Register in 2010.

Despite having to share only 58 bears with Russia, native peoples in Alaska actually harvested an average of 38 bears per year between 2004 and 2008, representing more than 65 percent of the joint bear limit with the Russians.

We daresay Bush would have gotten us a few more polar bears.

Follow Patrick on Twitter