A Pacific Loon floats along in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Seismic testing that was expected to begin last year in ANWR has been called off until at least December 2019. (Malkolm Boothroyd/malkolmboothroyd.com)

Yukoners claim victory after seismic testing in ANWR is delayed

“The complex issues that seismic testing raised couldn’t be addressed in the time frame required (by the BLM)”

Seismic testing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has been called off until at least December.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) received a proposal last year by SAExploration, which had hoped to have testing underway by December 2018. In order to make that happen, there were a number of environmental and bureaucratic hoops the company had to pass through.

The delay was caused by a “combination of factors,” not the least of which is the partial government shutdown, which has crippled the U.S., Malkolm Boothroyd, campaign coordinator with the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), said.

“The complex issues that seismic testing raised couldn’t be addressed in the time frame required (by the BLM),” he said.

“This is a victory for everyone who has spoken against (these) exploration plans,” he said, adding that the delay indicates, for him, that oil and gas exploration in ANWR is still “a big if.”

The BLM did not return a request for comment by press time.

The testing – which involves driving huge “thumper trucks” over large swaths of land, smashing the earth with 64,000 pounds of force in order to map oil deposits beneath the surface – can only be done during the winter. The testing itself raises environmental concerns, especially for wildlife, like polar bears, which den in the area, said Boothroyd.

This turn of events does not mean testing has been outright cancelled, but it does mean that it has been significantly delayed.

Companies considering seeking a lease – the Trump administration has mandated there must be two lease sales by 2024 – will have to do so without the economically valuable data that testing would have afforded them, effectively “weakening the salability” of those leases said Dana Tizya-Tramm, chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (VGFN) in Old Crow.

“We welcome this great news as symbolic of the break down and federal and state systems … and a signal of how effective our international efforts have been,” said Tizya-Tramm.

“By setting up internal mechanics which are now diametrically opposed to each other (within the BLM) … they have turned every level of this into a scrimmage…. The layers of complexities have finally entangled themselves,” he said.

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, was in Washington D.C. working on the issue of ANWR when the News spoke to her. She said the delay had “given her hope.”

“Since I’ve been travelling down here, I see a lot of people who genuinely care (about ANWR),” she said. “And then you have people who are just like, you know, ‘this is just a job.’”

She called the American government’s efforts to get leases out “fast and sloppy.”

The Gwich’in people, along with the conservationist allies, plan to “step up (their) efforts in Washington,” said Tizya-Tramm, and continue their campaign of political pressure and public education.

“We are very involved with media, with the online community… I’m telling you, it’s very powerful,” he said, adding that it is the Gwich’in youth who, under the wisdom of their elders, are “are stepping up” to the cause.

The announcement that testing would be delayed came just days before House Representatives Jared Huffman and Brian Fitzpatrick introduced a bill to restore protections against drilling in ANWR on Feb. 11. Tizya-Tramm said he did not expect that bill to pass, but that what was important is keeping the issue alive in the public and political eye.

“What is unfolding here is a great education, a university course in life the world has never seen before,” he said.

“No matter what comes out of these issue…. We welcome the world to participate and to learn.”

With files from Julien Gignac

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From Whitehorse to the Whitecaps

Joe Hanson is starting his second season with the Vancouver Whitecaps academy

Mount Lorne Mis-Adventure Trail Race doesn’t miss a step

Blue skies and sunshine for a chilly fall race

Canada Summer Games postponed

Yukon Canada Summer Games athletes will now work on mastering skills in preperation for 2022

Site selection for battery project draws ire of nearby landowners

Yukon Energy is accepting public comments on three possible sites for the project

Taking a closer look at the cosmos

Star gazing party scheduled for Sept. 18

Yukon government releases new guidelines for COVID-19 symptoms and sending children to school

The advice sorts symptoms into three categories: red, yellow and green

Nominations closed in Watson Lake byelection

Four candidates are running for mayor

Baggage screening changes begin

Passengers are asked to arrive earlier than normal in order to accommodate the new temporary system

Yukon Government extends education review

The final report is scheduled for release in March 2021

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Lawsuit against Freedom Trails settled

The suit was dismissed with consent of all parties

Tank farm takes another step towards development

OCP designation passes second reading

Climate change strategy targets 30 per cent reduction in territory greenhouse gases by 2030

The strategy includes rebates for electric vehicles but puts off mining targets for two years

Most Read