WASHINGTON — Government officials say the Interior Department has decided to protect the polar bear as a threatened species because of global warming.

The officials told The Associated Press the bears are threatened by the decline in Arctic sea ice. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement was to come from Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. He scheduled a news conference Wednesday.

The action comes a day before a court-imposed deadline on deciding whether the bear should be put under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act.

The department will cite studies by its own scientists saying the decline in Arctic sea ice could result in two-thirds of the polar bears disappearing by mid-century.