Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northeastern Alaskan includes parts of the Coastal Plains of the Western Arctic. Within it, an area known as the “1002 lands,” are particularly important for the Porcupine caribou herd because it is where they give birth each year. These calving and post-calving grounds are critical for the herd as they provide protection, nutrients and insect-relief the animals require at this important stage of their life-cycle.

Existing agreements between Indigenous Peoples, the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada protect nearly 13,000 square kilometres of the Porcupine caribou herd’s range in the Yukon.

The Porcupine caribou herd is estimated to be at 218,000 animals. It is one of the largest populations of barren-ground caribou in North America. Opening the refuge to commercial development could be severely destructive to the herd.

The governments of Yukon, Canada and Northwest Territories contracted an independent, scientific analysis of the potential impacts development in the refuge could have on the Porcupine caribou herd. This report uses more than 40 years of scientific monitoring and co-management data. You can learn more about this issue and what the scientific report says by reading these FAQs.

Government's direction

Our goal is to urge the US government to protect this sensitive habitat and the Porcupine caribou herd.

"The Government of Yukon stands in solidarity with the Gwich’in Peoples, advocating for the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd’s sacred and sensitive calving grounds on the Alaskan coastal plain. We are committed to this cause and encourage Yukoners to add their voices to this important effort."

–Yukon Premier Sandy Silver

Working with partners for the Porcupine caribou

We will continue to work together with the Vuntut Gwitchin to advocate for the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd and their calving grounds. The Gwich’in Peoples have long sought the protection of the herd and their calving grounds, which are widely acknowledged from both scientific and traditional knowledge perspectives, to be the most sensitive habitat for migratory barren-ground caribou herds. Other Canadian partners include the Government of Canada, the Gwich'in Tribal Council, the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Vuntut Gwitchin, the Government of Northwest Territories, the Inuvialuit Game Council, and the Porcupine Caribou Management Board.

Watch a video from the Minister of Environment and member of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Pauline Frost.

Our actions

  • October 23, 2020: an application for exploration work submitted for permit assessment to the Bureau of Land Management. Two week public comment period opens.
  • August 2020: the American Bureau of Land Management issued the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program Record of Decision. 
  • January 30, 2019: Bureau of Land Management extends public comment period to March 13, 2019.
  • January 25, 2019: Government of Canada requests extension to public comment period.
  • December 29, 2018: Bureau of Land Management begins official public comment period for the coastal plain oil and gas leasing draft environmental impact assessment.
  • September 27, 2018: International Porcupine Caribou Board (IPCB) meets in Kaktovik, Alaska to discuss herd’s conservation. Government of Yukon is an official member of the IPCB.
  • June 18, 2018: Government of Yukon submits input into the Bureau of Land Management Alaska State Office “scoping” phase of the Environmental Impact Assessment process. You can read the Government of Yukon's submission. The Environmental Impact Assessment process will consider the potential impacts of leasing ANWR lands for petroleum exploration. You can find out more information about the American project and process.
  • May 2018:  Government of Yukon tenders additional research work to help understand the impacts development in the calving grounds may have on the herd. 
  • January 2018: Government of Yukon convenes summit of the Parties to the Canadian Porcupine Caribou Management Agreement. Second summit follows in May 2018 in Inuvik. 
  • November 6, 2017: Government of Yukon officials travel to Washington to advocate for the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd.
  • November 3, 2017: Government of Yukon, Vuntut Gwitchin Government and Gwich’in Tribal Council urge protection of Porcupine caribou herd.
  • November 1, 2017: The Yukon Premier sends letter to US Senator for Alaska Lisa Murkowski and US Senator for Washington Maria Cantwell. View the Premier's letter.