Canada, First Na­tions ex­press con­cern over U.S. Arc­tic drilling plans

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - BUSINESS -

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.

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