A petition to protect the Porcupine caribou herd’s calving grounds has garnered almost 6,000 signatures. (Jesse Winter/Yukon News file)

CPAWS petition to protect Porcupine caribou breaks 5,000 signatures

‘This is such an important issue, we couldn’t not get involved’

A recently-launched petition to protect the Porcupine caribou herd calving grounds by the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society had 5,536 signatures as of Nov. 2.

Those numbers include both the English and French language surveys, said Yukon CPAWS executive director Chris Rider.

The Porcupine caribou calving grounds are located in 1002 Area in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The area has historically been protected from oil exploration, but recently proposed changes in American policy would open it up to drilling. Conservationists, biologists and Gwich’in people on both sides of the border say this would be harmful to the herd.

The Gwich’in people, including the Vuntut Gwitchin of Old Crow, consider the calving ground a sacred place.

“The Porcupine caribou herd is one of the last remaining healthy, barren ground herds in North America,” the petition reads.

It goes on to say the “Trump Administration is quietly working to pass legislation that would allow drilling in the very location the herd uses as their calving grounds. Caribou are incredibly sensitive to light and sound. Any construction in their territory could upset their feeding, breeding and migratory habits and lead them to abandon their calving grounds altogether. This could have a grave and irreversible impact on both the health of the herd and the Vuntut Gwitchin of Old Crow, Yukon, who rely on the animals for their very survival.”

Rider said that this project is something that has been “running in the background” while CPAWS focused on the Protect the Peel campaign.

The threat to the Porcupine caribou herd the oil exploration poses is “tremendously huge,” he said and the petition shows “people stand behind the (Vuntut Gwitchin) to protect the caribou.”

“We’ll be listening to the Vuntut Gwitchin and are happy to support them any way we can,” Rider said. “This is such an important issue, we couldn’t not get involved.”

The petition will remain open until Nov. 24 and it available at cpawsyukon.org.

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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