Canada, First Nations express concern over U.S. Arctic drilling plans
OTTAWA — The Canadian government, two territories and several First Nations are expressing concerns to the United States over plans to open the calving grounds of a large crossborder caribou herd to energy drilling, despite international agreements to protect it. “Canada is concerned about the potential transboundary impacts of oil and gas exploration and development planned for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain,” says a letter from Environment Canada to the Alaska office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Yukon and the Northwest Territories have submitted similar concerns as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump drafts plans to study the environmental impact of selling exploration leases on the ecologically rich plain.
“Much of the wildlife that inhabits the ... refuge is shared with Canada,” says the N.W.T.’S letter to the U.S. “The conservation of these transboundary shared resources is very important to Indigenous groups.”
The Porcupine herd is one of the few remaining healthy caribou populations in the North and a crucial resource for Indigenous people.
Canada says the caribou are covered by one of four different international agreements — including two over polar bears and one for migratory birds — that commit the U.S. to preserve the area. At least three diplomatic notes have passed between the two countries over the issue.
Canada wants assurances from the U.S. about the content of the environmental study. The N.W.T. is asking that hearings be held in Canadian Indigenous communities that depend on the herd.