Tell President Trump: No Oil and Gas Drilling on the Calving Grounds of the Porcupine Caribou
One of my best wilderness experiences happened on a rafting trip on the Firth River in northern Yukon in June 2006. One day, a good part of the Porcupine caribou herd—we counted 10,000–crossed the flooding river and trotted past our camp on their way north to calving grounds on the coastal plain of Alaska’s Arctic Refuge.
Now U.S. President Donald Trump has recklessly decided to open up of the coastal plain to oil and gas development. The population of the Porcupine herd is still strong at 218,000 (unlike many other caribou herds across Canada), but the last thing they need is oil and gas development on their calving grounds. These caribou are extremely important as a food source and culturally to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in northern Yukon.
The United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is overseeing a 60-day comment period (winding up on June 19) during which folks can comment on the scope of environmental assessment of the drilling program; several other public consultation stages will follow before any drilling can start. Here is the link to the BLM site: https://www.blm.gov/programs/planning-and-nepa/plans-in-development/alaska/coastal-plain-eis.
It is important to note that Canada has taken some significant action to defend these caribou by establishing two national parks (Vuntut and Ivvavik) along the Alaska border. As well, Canada and U.S. also signed a treaty in 1987 that requires the two countries to “take appropriate action to conserve the Porcupine Caribou Herd and its habitat”. Oil and gas development in the critical habitat of the calving grounds may well be a violation of the treaty as well as a breach of the human rights of the Vuntut Gwitchin.