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In pictures: The Porcupine caribou

The Porcupine caribou herd might be the most famous in the North

Peter Mather

Special to the News

While the 200,000-strong Porcupine caribou herd is currently weathering winter south of Old Crow, in the United States the Trump administration is making a last-minute push to open the herd’s calving grounds in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The administration is looking to finalize drilling leases before president-elect Joe Biden takes office, as Biden has committed to protecting ANWR and plans to ban new oil and gas permitting on all public lands and waters.

The refuge was established in 1980, protecting 19 million acres of wilderness. However, a section of the coastal plain called the 1002 area was set aside — its fate to be determined at a later date.

This 1002 area, in the heart of the Porcupine caribou’s calving grounds along the coastal plains, is believed to contain large amounts of oil reserves and is the land opened by the Trump administration to drilling rights lease sales scheduled for Jan. 6, 2021.

The Gwich’in people of Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories have fought for decades to prevent oil and gas development in the calving grounds for fear that it will have a devastating effect on the Porcupine caribou herd and the communities that depend on them for physical and cultural sustenance.

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