- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The public has an extra three weeks to comment on a proposal to designate critical habitat for Arctic ringed seals.

The National Marine Fisheries Service said Friday that it was extending the comment deadline from March 9 to March 31.

The proposed designation would identify sea ice in the northern Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas as critical for ringed seal pupping, nursing and other activities.

Under the Endangered Species Act, federal agencies would be required to consider whether actions they authorize, fund or carry out would adversely affect the ice, and ringed seals, if the designation is made. According to a release from the agency, such a designation would not impact subsistence activities.

Public hearings are scheduled for Anchorage, Kotzebue, Barrow and Bethel in February.

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